‘The Full Monty’ to begin Capital Rep run on July 5
ALBANY, N.Y. » If you are an actress and want to steal the musical, “The Full Monty,” the role to play is Jeannette Burmeister.
She’s the acerbic pianist accompanist who rehearses with the six unemployed steelworkers who are trying to earn money by doing a strip act that will include a “full Monty.”
Jeannette is a colorful, middle-aged character who is so off-beat, direct and cynical that audiences immediately take to her world-weary demeanor. She makes her introductory song, “Jeannette’s Showbiz Number,” a show-stopping moment.
However, if an actress would rather win the hearts of the audience, she would opt for the role of Georgie Bukatinsky. She’s the wife of Dave, one of the leaders of the strip scheme. He’s insecure about being overweight and unemployed.
The situation is placing a strain on Georgie and Dave’s relationship.
One person who is an expert on the two characters is Susann Fletcher, who is playing Jeannette in the production of “The Full Monty,” which is at Capital Rep July 5 through August 11.
Fletcher played Georgie on Broadway and in the show’s first national tour. In recent years, she’s portrayed Jeannette in several professional regional theater productions. Though she loves both characters, it is the show for which she has the deepest affection.
“It is beautifully written, and in a charming and entertaining way deals with issues about life that are universal. It also has a great score.” Fletcher explains that the steel mill closing and throwing workers out of a job is something that pervades all of America. “The show concerns big issues. Unemployment in a small town affects everyone.
“And it puts a lot of pressure on personal relationships.”
She says one of the things she admires about the men in the show is their resilience. In order to raise money, they decide to put on a Chippendale act. But, instead of stripping to a bikini bottom, they vow to take everything off. This causes a sensation in the community.
Fletcher says, “The men think outside the box. Sometimes when things appear hopeless you have to be creative. To me, their solution is a metaphor for people who in time of necessity have to strip away all the fears that hold you back.”
In a way, she says Jeanette also has to face reality. “She once toured with jazz greats and is now retired and put out to pasture in Buffalo. She’s been married eight times, and can hold her own with any man. I see her as having a big heart, despite her crusty nature. I believe after this she’s going to find other places to play. This is helping her find herself as well.”
Perhaps channeling Jeannine, she says moving from the youthful Georgie to the older Jeannine is “crossing the great divide.” She says that aging into different roles is also a “total metaphor for life.”
She continues her thought, saying. “Revisiting a show 20 to 30 years after being one of the first to create a major char
acter is both humbling and beautiful. As you assume a role, like Jeannine, that has been played by many great performers you sense the ghosts of people in the room.
“We each play the same character in our own way. You come to realize that some roles are bigger than the people who play them.”
Fletcher admits being in a happy and fun production of “The Full Monty” is also a way of dealing with what she calls her “heartbreak tour.” Annie Golden was cast as the first Georgie on Broadway.
Fletcher won the coveted role for the first national tour, which opened in Toronto in 2001.
Opening so close to Buffalo was an error, she says. “The very popular film was originally set in England and I believe Toronto audiences could not forgive moving it to Buffalo,” she says. “The economic depression in the neighboring city made the show too real for Canadian audiences.”
The poor reception meant the next stop on the tour — Chicago — would make or break the tour. “We opened on September 12, 2001 — the worst day in my life. We were all in shock. I hardly remember performing. After 9/11, audiences changed, New York changed, the world changed.”
Fletcher is a veteran of six national tours and , yes, eventually did get to take over for Annie Golden to play Georgie on Broadway, but it too was a short run. “I felt I had the rug ripped out from under my dream role. But now the experience of seeing a great performance of the role by a terrific actress at Capital Rep (Doreen Burns) makes me feel the circle is complete.
“Being on stage in a play I love, watching two young people fall back in love, is a great place to live. I swear no one in the audience has a better time than I do at “The Full Monty.”
“The Full Monty” at Capital Rep in Albany. July 5-August 11. For tickets and complete schedule call (518) 445-7469 or go to capitalrep.org
Members of “The Full Monty” company: Top, from left, Kevin McGuire, Lyn Philistine, Christopher Sutton, Eddie Maldonado, Patrick John Moran, Kimberly Doreen Burns, Christopher M. Howard. Bottom, from left, David Socolar, Reggie Whitehead
From left, Patrick John Moran, Reggie Whitehead, Christopher Sutton, David Socolar, Eddie Maldonado, Kevin McGuire in “The Full Monty.”
From left, Kevin McGuire, Reggie Whitehead, Eddie Maldonado, Patrick John Moran, David Socolar perform in “The Full Monty.”