I recently had the chance to revisit The Full Monty, one of the most wildly entertaining shows on Broadway, and I'm happy to report that the David Yazbek-Terrence McNally musical is in great shape. Among its chief assets is Will Chase, who has replaced Patrick Wilson in the central role of Jerry Lukowski, the unemployed steel worker who persuades a bunch of his buddies that they should put on a strip show to raise some quick cash. The other new guys in the show are Larry Marshall, Steven Skybell, Daniel Stewart Sherman, Danny Gurwin, and Chris Diamantopoulos. They join original cast members Annie Golden, Emily Skinner, and Lisa Datz; Jane Connell took over the plum role of Jeanette following the death of the fabulous Kathleen Freeman.
"I didn't see the show until after my audition for it was set up," says Chase, whom you may have caught as Chris in Miss Saigon during the latter part of that show's marathon Broadway run. "What's funny is that, when I was doing Saigon, some friends of mine in the show had gone to see The Full Monty. I asked them what they thought and they were a little pretentious about it; they were, like, 'It's okay but it's fluffy.'" (Chase maintains a discrete silence when I remark how ironic it is that anyone in Miss Saigon would dare to say anything negative about The Full Monty.)
"Anyway," he continues, "I went to see Monty for myself and I thought: 'This isn't fluff, it's something different. It's a very well written musical comedy about some real guys. The original cast was truly fantastic. And I love the score. It's pop but it's definitely accessible to everybody. I did Aida for about three months this summer and that score is pop, too, but in a completely different way; you could close your eyes and think you're listening to the radio. At The Full Monty, you don't necessarily leave humming the tunes, which is Yazbek's style in a way. But the songs are really actable."
Though Chase is ideal casting for Jerry Lukowski, he was originally paged for another role. "They called me in for Malcolm," he relates, "I think because I resemble Jason Danieley a little bit. I told them, 'First of all, I'm not an Irish tenor, so don't even think about it. Maybe you can call me in when Patrick's leaving.' They said, 'Well, actually, Patrick is leaving, so why don't you come in and read for Jerry?'"
What has Chase noticed in terms of audience response during his three months in the show? "The good thing is that we're still getting tri-staters," he says. "You might think the matinee audiences would be the worst, but they're actually kind of rowdy. Sometimes, we get groups of 50- or 60-year-old women, and those are the greatest shows ever. They think it's going to be a strip show, and we do end up doing that, but they also get the characters' journey on top of that. I'll tell you, though--even a 'bad' audience at Monty is great. It's the first comedy I've done in a long time, which is fine with me; I've played so many angry young men who die or kill themselves, and that gets a little old after a while!"