Written by: Mindy Leaf
I often wistfully recall living in NYC in the 1980s and attending specially priced pre-show dinners at restaurants around Broadway that guaranteed you’d be served and out the door a half hour before showtime. It was always nice to join friends, or even just your partner, for a meal before seeing a play. But this was something I figured simply could not happen in South Florida — what with unpredictable traffic, searching and paying for parking at two locations, not to mention our current restaurant staffing crisis sinking the best-laid timing plans. Who needs all that stress?
Happily, I can now report that you can go back to the dinner-and-show days of the 1980s (in more ways than one, as you’ll soon see). If you stick to matinees (bonus of far less traffic), you can enjoy a delightfully relaxing and tasty lunch-and-a-show experience every Thursday at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center (LPAC). LPAC’s “Lunch Club Matinee” originally targeted parties of six but soon welcomed everyone; even singles can register online (though groups of 10 or more are still asked to call the box office for reservations).
They’ve partnered with everyone’s favorite local deli, TooJay’s, with a special lunch menu from their regular offerings (same generous portion size and quality) where you can choose a deli or tuna sandwich on rye, a chicken caesar salad or veggie wrap, all with potato salad or coleslaw on the side. These are accompanied by mayo, mustard and Russian dressing, a real deli pickle and choice of soda or bottled water. If you simply must have hot coffee or tea with the diet-friendly-sized black-and-white cookie, it’s a mere $2 at the lobby’s concession stand.
I should mention here that if you have not yet visited this relatively new, perfectly mid-sized theater (that sadly closed too soon for Covid), there’s ample free parking and clear signage makes it easy to get to – on 441, just northeast of Sunrise Blvd. Entrance is through a bright, glass-encased lobby dotted with convenient bar tables for preshow snacking and chatting. A short walk through the lobby gets you to the “multipurpose room” dining area where tables are set and ready, depending on the size of your group.
An LPAC host greets you at the door, asks your name, then points to your table number, where you’ll join your friends. At the table, you’ll find a card with your name and lunch choices (that’s your seat) and a boxed meal that’s ready to dig into. Couples, or singles (like me), may be joined with others (I sat with two theater-loving ladies — of course we had plenty to discuss). They also loved their meal, as did the group of nine that I sat next to at the performance who, given their numbers, had just about ordered everything on the menu and were unanimously satisfied.
Leading me to conclude that for the special $49 ticket price (about average cost of a show alone) this lunch/show combo is a terrific deal! Not to mention the convenience and fun social aspect. And what show did we attend that had swarms of women so excited (along with a few same-sex and opposite-sex couples)? One that’s also set in the 1980s (here’s the second, time-warp throwback). None other than ten-time Tony Award Broadway musical nominee THE FULL MONTY with book by Terrence McNally and music and lyrics by David Yazbek.
LPAC’s distinguished Broadway Series’ artistic director Michael Ursua — who also served as the show’s director and music director – wrote a program note describing why he chose this admittedly super-popular 2000 musical adaption of the 1997 hit British film as LPAC’s “welcome back” show of their inaugural live-theater season: “It is full of heart, humor, wonderful songs, and focuses on a delightful group of salt-of-the-earth humans who are in the midst of a very challenging period of their lives. We could draw parallels to the era in which we now find ourselves, but no matter the time, place or circumstances, we cannot get by without each other.”
Buffalo’s Hot Metal “real men” strippers take their bows after a Ladies Night sold-out show. See what lies behind those robes and have a riotous good time at LPAC’s pitch-perfect production of THE FULL MONTY, directed by Michael Ursua and playing only through January 29.
This may be the ultimate takeaway, but I couldn’t help thinking that to enjoy this play as wholeheartedly as its excited audience of a certain age (mostly retirees who were free on a weekday afternoon), it’s important to let yourself sink back into the zeitgeist of the 1980s. A time when male masculinity was still dependent on being the primary bread winner (when Buffalo’s steel mills closed, they not only lost a good paycheck, they lost their sense of self). How this affected their relationship with the women in the lives, including their sex lives. And how women who worked and could support their families (with the feminist movement in full gear), suddenly felt empowered to let loose and enjoy themselves the same way men had forever … by patronizing male striptease dancers at Chippendales.
The few mic’d female actors cheering on a Chippendale stripper (including ensemble players Allyson Rosenblum, JaVonda Carter, and Jessie Dez) were no match for the full-throated cheers of the ladies in LPAC’s audience. We might as well have gone back four decades, the way everyone around me was both titillated and thrilled at the sight of men in thongs and the anticipation of a “full monty” (yes, there’s a flash of full-frontal exposure at the end). All harmless fun, I guess, though I couldn’t completely shut off my 21st century sensibility where young women are regularly harassed by unsolicited penis texts … and do we really want to achieve equality by joining men in their culture of sexual objectification? If these are ideas you can’t put aside for a couple of hours, maybe this isn’t the show for you.
Speaking solely as musical theater entertainment — from ensemble to choreography, set, sound, costumes and lighting — LPAC’s production is first rate. The dark brick backdrop of an abandoned steelmill flanked by luminescent girders and some storied windows was ideal, as were quick-shifting scene/stage sets throughout. Scenic design/scenic artist Cindi Blank Taylor did an amazing job, highlighted by Lowell Richard’s on-point lighting, sound by Gerry Regan and costumes by Penny Williams.
The opening number by choreographer Alex Jorth features Chippendale dancer Buddy “Keno” Walsh (Ryan Michael James) in an impressive, erotic strip number by a guy with a fantastic bod. We then meet the laid-off ordinary men from the plant who think of, and sing of, themselves as “Scrap.” Ringleader Jerry Lukowski (Kieran Danaan) tries to convince his best friend Dave Bukatinsky (Nicholas Barnes) to grab his wife Georgie (Kate Delaney) out of the Chippendale’s Ladies Night outing she’d organized (and they’re spying on), but when they hear the women coming, decide to hide in the men’s room. Not a good plan, as the women soon take over the men’s because of (you guessed it) long lines at the ladies’. The guys run to crouch in the stalls, where they can easily eavesdrop. This leads to a hilarious and touching scene that sets in motion Jerry’s idea of getting his laid-off associates together for a lucrative “real men” strip show.
In addition to acting expertise, all these triple-threat performers boast remarkable singing voices; the main character’s solos are absolute knockouts. Vocal highlights include “Life with Harold” by Jodie Langel as Vicki Nichols. Langel is later joined by Kate Delaney as Georgie in “You Rule My World,” a heartfelt love song of support for their husbands under any circumstances.
Rich and coddled factory foreman’s wife Jodie Langel sings about her privileged “Life with Harold” but surprises everyone, her husband especially, when she supports him no matter what. Meet the outspoken ladies of Buffalo who challenge and (mostly) stand by their men in THE FULL MONTY, now playing at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center.