Patrick Wilson in The Full Monty(Photo: Craig Schwartz)
Patrick Wilson in The Full Monty
(Photo: Craig Schwartz)
There's a reason why audiences have been standing up and cheering at the finale of the new Broadway musical The Full Monty. The cast oozes confidence and pride. This is a group of actors bound by the common goal of bringing love, tears, and a bit of wing-wang to the stage. A week before their much anticipated opening, the cast and crew bellied up to a buffet table at the Longacre Square Restaurant on West 46th Street to talk up the show and give bear hugs to the press. TheaterMania grabbed four of the principals just before their evening performance; we chewed over the realities of opening night jitters, divine providence, and Broadway moxie.

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PATRICK WILSON GETS LUCKY

In The Full Monty, Patrick Wilson plays Jerry Lukowski, the leader of "Hot Metal." That's the name the character gives to his motley crew of amateur strippers, six unemployed steelworkers in need of a few fast bucks. Though Wilson had a great experience in the well-received City Center Encores! concert revival of Tenderloin, his other two high-profile New York shows--Fascinating Rhythm and Bright Lights, Big City--were notorious bombs. So he's happy to be involved in something that has "hit" written all over it.

TM: Welcome back to New York! How is the show going over here, as compared to the pre-Broadway run at the Old Globe in San Diego?

WILSON: The audience reaction in San Diego didn't vary. There was kind of one level of fun; it was like they were at a rock concert! Here in New York, you have different kinds of audiences--businessmen, whatever--and they have different responses. Actually, matinees are turning out to be our best shows every week. Those people love it.

TM: So, it was crazy in San Diego?

PW: The show broke every box office record at the Old Globe. People were actually scalping tickets, which is something I've never seen at a regional theater.

TM: What was you first reaction to the idea of a stage musical of The Full Monty?

PW: When I heard that Terrence [McNally] was writing the book, I thought it might be really good. The script actually sold me on the show before I had heard any of the songs--and then the score turned out to be great, too. I started to hear a lot of buzz about the show after the first workshop, which I didn't do. I'm so happy that the musical is not a carbon copy of the movie.

TM: Your role of Jerry Lukowski has everything: humor, drama, sex, and some great songs. Is it fun to do?

PW: It's great for a guy in his late 20s to play a young father instead of an ingénue. I'm lucky that the characters I've played lately, both in plays and musicals, have all had some weight to them. I have no desire to be the young, boring leading man. Also, The Full Monty is right for me vocally. And I haven't done a lot of comedy since college, so it's good to get those chops back again.

TM: You survived Fascinating Rhythm and Bright Lights, Big City. What's it like to be in a potentially huge hit?

PW: I'm used to defending the shows I've been in, used to having the buzz be negative. It's nice to be on the other side and have great buzz--especially when the show can back it up.

TM: Are the guys in the cast prepared to become Broadway sex symbols?

PW: No, we're not! I go on line a lot, but I stay out of the chat rooms, because I never want to see things written about me. That scares me!

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ROMAIN OF THE DAY

Though his is not exactly a household name, Romain Frugé has previously been seen and heard on Broadway in Titanic, The Who's Tommy, The Secret Garden, and--as a young pup--in Big River. In The Full Monty, this ruggedly handsome man with a beautiful voice has the "meaty" role of Ethan Girard. Just before leaving the Longacre Square Restaurant to catch his nightly nap prior to the show, Romain gave us a few tips on his successes.

TM: How did The Full Monty happen for you?

RF: I didn't have to audition. Jack O'Brien had asked me to do Floyd Collins at the Old Globe last year, and then he asked me to do the first reading of this show last October. I played Ethan in that first reading, and then I did the reading after that.

Clockwise from bottom: Romain Frugé,John Ellison Conlee, Marcus Neville,Jason Danieley, and André De Shieldsin The Full Monty(Photo: Craig Schwartz)
Clockwise from bottom: Romain Frugé,
John Ellison Conlee, Marcus Neville,
Jason Danieley, and André De Shields
in The Full Monty
(Photo: Craig Schwartz)
TM: You're a true actor-singer-dancer, aren't you?

RF: My background is in acting and singing. I do dance in shows when I have to, but dance is not my priority.

TM: You would never know it from the moves you make during the "Michael Jordan's Ball" number. Where are you from?

RF: I am from the Washington, D.C. area.

TM: Which is your favorite of your previous Broadway shows?

RF: I guess Big River; I understudied Huck Finn here and then did the part on the road for a year. I had good experiences with all of my Broadway shows, but I do think Floyd Collins was the most exciting thing so far in my career. And The Full Monty is the second most exciting thing.

TM: What's the correct pronunciation of your first name?

RF: "Roman" or "Romaine." The French pronunciation would be "Ro-MAIN." My dad is French; he's from Louisiana, Cajun. A friend started calling me "Roman" as a nickname, and it kinda stuck. So I've spent time as "Roman," "Romaine," "Romy," "Robo." Anything will do for me!

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GOLDEN GIRL

Annie Golden is a veteran of the New York City music scene. Once a regular at CBGB's with her band The Shirts, she's been singin' good ol' rock 'n' roll since she was a kid. Plucked out of CBGB's to co-star in the movie version Hair, she has appeared on Broadway in the revival of that seminal rock musical, as well as in Ah, Wilderness! and On the Town. As Georgie Bukatinsky, the wife of the "fat guy" (John Ellison Conlee) in The Full Monty, Golden takes no prisoners.

TM: Where are you from?

AG: I'm a native New Yorker.

TM: What's it been like, coming to Broadway with the show?

AG: The joyful thing is that five people from the first workshop have made it to Broadway: John Ellison Conlee, Romain Frugé, Jason Danieley, Todd Weeks, and me. I've been lucky to be with this show from the very beginning, and I feel that Terrence really wrote the part for me. He "got" me, totally. So did [director] Jack O'Brien. And David Yazbek is from CBGB's where I've spent a lot of time singing my own songs.

TM: How would you describe the music of The Full Monty?

AG: It's music with a heart, an edge, and a soul. This show really gives the guys some great songs.

TM: Is it true that you just sort of fell into all this stage stuff?

AG: Milos Forman came down to CBGB's ages ago, saw me, and put me in my first film, Hair. Because I was in the movie, Tom O'Hogan hired me to do the revival of the show, and that's how my stage work began. I learned and learned and learned. Where most stage actor-singers learn by coaching, classes, and such, I learned by doing in this business. But it was really a fluke, Forman finding me. And I consider it a gift.

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KATHLEEN FREEMAN ON BROADWAY!

The second Kathleen Freeman walks on stage in The Full Monty as Jeanette Burmeister, the wisecracking accompanist of "Hot Metal," you know you are in the comfortable hands of an old pro. The veteran actress has appeared in a score of films, including the classic Singin' in the Rain (as Lina Lamont's voice teacher) and both Blues Brothers movies (in which she played a penguin), as well as "several hundred" TV shows. In The Full Monty, she rules the stage of the Eugene O'Neill Theatre; "Jeanette's Showbiz Number" in the second act is a bona-fide show stopper, though Freeman swears she's not doing anything special to elicit the ovations.

André De Shields and Kathleen Freemanin The Full Monty(Photo: Craig Schwartz)
André De Shields and Kathleen Freeman
in The Full Monty
(Photo: Craig Schwartz)
TM: How did you find yourself in The Full Monty?

KF: It found me, which is pretty glorious. A very good girlfriend of mine auditioned for the show, and she told them, "This isn't my stuff. You have to see Kathleen. This is her stuff." I couldn't be more delighted.

TM: What would you like to say to the folks out there in cyberspace about the show?

KF: Plan to be in a condition of wonder. Plan to be the recipient of a story that is so genuine. It's a story about real people--not on Wall Street, not wealthy and fancy and all these things, but just regular folks. We haven't seen that in a long time.

TM: Is this your Broadway debut?

KF: I think so--or damn close. I did one other show with Louis Jourdan years back at Circle in the Square.

TM: Are you a New Yorker?

KF: No, I live in L.A. I'm the only one in the cast who does.

TM: Patrick Wilson was saying that San Diego just loved the show.

KF: They ate it up with spoons!

TM: Can you talk a little about the audience/actor connection?

KF: There's a kind of circular activity that goes on. That's what I think. There is no show that does the same thing every night, and there is no audience that does the same thing every night. So we're all caught in this fabulous circle.

TM: Are you having a lot of fun on stage?

KF: It's very rewarding. When is the last time you saw a show where people say "I love you" to each other? When is the last time you saw old and young performers working together? Again, it's a circular thing where we all connect.

TM: You are so smart.

KF: No, I'm just a smart-ass!