‘The Full Monty’: Award-winning play explores societal expectations, pressures men face

If you go What: "The Full Monty" stage production based on 1997 British film of same name. When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays, May 28 to 31 and June 4 to 7. Where: Empire Arts Center, 415 DeMers Ave. N., Grand Forks. Tickets: $20 for regular...


If you go

  • What: “The Full Monty” stage production based on 1997 British film of same name.
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays, May 28 to 31 and June 4 to 7.
  • Where: Empire Arts Center, 415 DeMers Ave. N., Grand Forks. 
  • Tickets: $20 for regular admission; $17 for seniors, students and military; $15 for groups of 10 or more booking at same time; two for $30 when you show current hotel room receipt at box office on the night of performance. 
  • Reservations, more info: (701) 777-4090. 
  • For more info: Visit

Note: Show not recommended for those younger than 18 because of nudity and strong language

Although the name is provocative, “The Full Monty” is less about nudity than it is about definitions of masculinity, issues of self-worth and ingrained stereotypes that entrap men, said Casey Paradies, who directs the play for the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre.

The musical-comedy stage production, based on a 1997 British film of the same name, opened this week and runs through next weekend at the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks. It is intended for adults only because of strong language and nudity, Paradies said.

“The Full Monty” tells the story of six, out-of-work men in Buffalo, N.Y., who are grappling with the loss of a steady income and the possibility of losing everything they hold dear.


Short on cash and job prospects, they hit on the idea of presenting a strip show after seeing their wives’ and girlfriends’ enthusiastic reaction to the touring Chippendale male performers at a local club. 

One of the guys, Jerry, declares that their show will be better than the Chippendales’ because they’ll go “the full monty” - that is, strip all the way.

But the play “is not about that,” Paradies said. “(It) seems to be about that.”

As the men prepare for their show, working through their fears, self-consciousness and anxieties, they overcome their inner demons and find strength in their camaraderie.

Although it’s a comedy, the show touches on serious subjects: unemployment, fathers’ rights, depression, obesity, homosexuality, working class culture and suicide.  

What grips audiences is “watching what people will do when faced with the fact that they may be losing loved ones or losing a home,” he said.

For example, Jerry, played by Jared Kinney, is behind on child support payments. Unless he comes up with the money, his ex-wife will take full custody of his young son.

“He sees his son slipping away,” Paradies said. “In his son’s eyes, he’s not the man (his son) thought he was.”


Kinney said his character, Jerry, “is always dreaming, always looking for the next best thing and trying to orchestrate some master plan to make a buck,

“He’s always trying to prove himself to people other than himself.”

As the story unfolds Jerry “finds out that there are other things in life that are more important, such as being a father.”  

The play examines questions surrounding how men retain and support their families, Paradies said. If they’re not the bread-winner, who are they?

It also explores self-image and “what it means to be held to an ideal.”   

Although women are usually noted for obsessing about body image, men care just as much, he said. “We don’t really hear men’s side of it.”

Woven through the story is the theme that “nothing’s ever finished,” Paradies said.

“These are men who never finished anything. They’re laid off, so they haven’t finished their job. One hasn’t told his wife (that he lost his job).


“The full monty becomes the first time they finish something,” he said. “It’s the first time they’re taking their lives in their own hands.”

Tender moments

Along with burlesque and ribald humor, the performance is mellowed by “some really tender moments,” he said, such as when two women tell their men, in song, that they love them, not for their looks or what society says about them, but for who they are.

Other poignant moments are shared by Jerry’s son, Nathan, played by Noah Romig, 8, said Kathy Coudle-King, executive director of the local community theater.    

The performance “will definitely deliver some hoots and hollers,” she said, “but it also touches on some very real issues about what it means to be a man without a job.”

By the show’s conclusion, the men “overcome body image and nudity issues, the fear of being on stage in front of people, and the hold that the past had on them,” Paradies said.

The show “presents the question, ‘If I had a chance to get everything I wanted immediately, would I do it?’ ” Paradies said. “They have one moment to reclaim whatever it is they’re lacking - to really shine.”   

“It’s a powerful show … a multilayered, multidimensional show.”


When approached about directing it, Paradies was excited but a little hesitant, he said.

“What are the chances of finding six men who want to take their clothes off in Grand Forks, North Dakota - and one of them has to be black?” he asked Coudle-King.

“She said, ‘It’ll happen.’ And it did,” he said.

“I have a cast … they came out of my dreams. (Several) are well-known in community theatre around here.”

“The audience will see some amazing talent.”

In addition to Kinney, the “unlikely dancers” are played by C.J. Leigh, Dustin Umland, Mark Diers, Isaac Engels and Ben Wood, said Coudle-King. Tony Baker plays a professional stripper and C. Stoner plays a “crusty old broad who keeps the guys on track.”

About the dancers, Kinney said, “These are six guys who have no business taking their clothes off in front of an audience. These are completely average guys (who) are boosting each others’ morale.”

A veteran of community theatre, Kinney took on his role “as kind of challenge,” he said. “It’s scary but also exciting.”


Through nudity, the men “are finally discovering that they’re comfortable with themselves. They’re saying, ‘This is me, I’m flawed,’ but they have others who love them, and they are finally loving themselves.” 

Paradies isn’t nervous about the nudity.

“I quit worrying about people being offended a long time ago,” he said. “I don’t do or put my name on anything I don’t stand behind.”

“I wouldn’t do a show that’s offensive to be offensive … I do a show because it tells a story of human experience in creative ways.”  

Anyone who has concerns about the play should read more about it online before making a decision about attending, Paradies said.

Award-winning play

“The Full Monty,” based on a book by Terrence McNally and score by David Yazbek, won the 2001 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music. It was nominated for Academy Awards for best picture, best director, best original screenplay and best original music score, winning the latter.   

As director, Paradies is assisted by Patrick Pearson, with musical direction by Karen Braaten, a quartet of musicians Jeff Anvinson, Mark VanCamp, Alex Haruther and Braaten, and set design by Jeff and Jared Kinney.


This could go  YES, OK – was included because he has ties to ND and accomplishments in theatre performance

Paradies is a native of Williston, N.D. After graduating high school there, he started his theatrical career with the “Up with People” organization, traveling in the Midwest, East Coast and Europe.

He graduated from the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UND where he works as a graduate teaching assistant while earning a master’s degree with a focus on musical theater.

His career in theatre has taken him “back and forth” between Grand Forks and New York for the past 12 years, he said.

“The Full Monty” is the final performance of the Greater Grand Forks Community Theatre’s 66th season.     

“I hope people come and let their inhibitions fly for a night,” Paradies said. 

Knudson covers health and family. Call her at (701) 780-1107, (800) 477-6572 ext.1107 or email


Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
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