It's a story about friendship, family values and self-confidence. A group of average Joes tries to make ends meet after being laid off, and they are truly tested to see how far they will go to keep their lives, and their families, together.
The story is, of course, The Full Monty, which will be performed by the Cockpit in Court Summer Theatre tomorrow through July 2. Although a touring production played at the Mechanic Theatre in 2003, this is the first time the comedy has been produced by a Baltimore theater.
The musical tells a story of six guys - four laid-off steelworkers, their former foreman and a retired steelworker - who put together a strip show rather than seek out other job opportunities. They gradually gain enough confidence in their dancing abilities to get to the point where they can rip everything off and bare it all.
But the show is much more than eye candy. Director and choreographer James Hunnicutt says that the diversity of the characters intensifies the musical.
"It's a much deeper story than you get from the title," he says.
Steve Antonsen, who plays Jerry, a dreamer who is not willing to settle for less than what he wants, adds that the main characters cover guys from all aspects of the social spectrum. There's a nerd, a guy in the closet, a straight guy, a black guy, a fat guy and a "bookish" guy. He feels the musical brings light to the commonalities among all these different people.
"Deep down, we all have the same goals and desires," he says. "Desires to be needed and loved and necessary." For him, the play is about acceptance of others as well as ourselves. Jerry's best friend, Dave, played by Antonsen's real-life best friend, John Ford, exemplifies this need to accept yourself.
Dave, one of the laid-off steelworkers, is drifting away from his wife of 12 years. Being unemployed makes him feel less manly and desirable, and his body issues (he's the heavyset fellow) aren't helping.
"I think people really relate to these guys," Antonsen says, "because everybody has body-image issues."
It helps that the actors are not your well-built, pretty-boy types, Antonsen says. As they develop their dances, the audience is gradually desensitized to the idea of stripping. There is even a little taste of it in the first act. Antonsen says that by the end, the audience is rooting for these guys to "take it off and be free."
To present the nude scene, Cockpit in Court took a cue from the Broadway production and uses a strong backlight to blur the naked finale.
Oddly enough, the actors are more nervous about dancing than they are about exposing themselves.
"It isn't that big of a deal," Antonsen says. "When you're acting, you're lost in the moment, but the dancing scares the hell out of us because none of us are dancers."
"We're much more concerned about the quality of the show than personal comfort," says Ford, although he realizes some more conservative theatergoers may be turned off by the nature of the story. There's always going to be people offended by displays of the human body and vulgar language, he says, "but you can't please everybody." He is sure the audience will leave the show feeling uplifted rather than disgusted.
"You can't let naysayers and laughers get in your way," he says. "And you gotta find a way to make it through, and sometimes it's as extreme as going the full monty."
Performances will take place in the B Building Theatre at the Community College of Baltimore County, Essex, 7201 Rossville Blvd., at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $18 for the general public and $16 for seniors, students, CCBC faculty, staff and alumni. Patrons younger than 16 must be accompanied by a parent. For more information, visit ccbcmd.edu/cockpit or call 410-780-6369.