The press night performance of The Full Monty at the Broadway Theatre in Catford was unpolished and felt like a dress rehearsal.

The musical version of the 1997 film has music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Terrence McNally. The action has been moved to Buffalo, America, where six unemployed steel workers decide to set up their own strip act in order to make money, having seen the success of a professional strip show in their home town.

Adam Bayjou plays the main character, Jerry, who has an ex-wife and a young son. He is the driving force behind the act, which is as much about making his son proud as it is about making money. Bayjou is too young to play this part and gives a forced performance. His accent is also hard to place but, to be fair, he is not the only one guilty of this crime.

Peter St James plays Jerry’s best friend, Dave, and there are moments when he gets the pathos right. He is competently supported by Robert Rees as Ethan, Nick Fawcett as Harold and Hervé Goffings as Horse, other members of the strip act.

It’s only Gareth Nash, as Malcolm, who really captures the essence of his character and makes the audience care about his story. The funeral scene where he sings for his dead mother, with support from his new lover, is touching. This is a sign that Thom Southerland can direct musical theatre, but throughout this production there are many questionable moments.

The biggest question is what on earth sprang to mind in casting Anthony Wise as wise-cracking Jeanette, the rehearsal pianist? This may have worked if it had been clear whether Jeanette was a transsexual, transvestite or drag act. But it’s not, and Jeanette’s big number makes for uncomfortable viewing with unnecessary glimpses of what is underneath a very short skirt.

The final number of the show needs to be rethought. It’s fine to include members of the cast in the auditorium, interacting with the action on stage. But they stood in the way of the audience and detracted from the show’s big moment.

The choreography by Chadd Garvie and musical direction by Magnus Gilljam are underwhelming: the piano playing was unconfident at times. There is, however, effective sound design by Pat O’Sullivan and strong lighting design by Kath O’Sullivan.

All in all, given Southerland’s pedigree, it was a disappointing night at the Broadway Theatre. Hopefully he will be back on form when he directs Singin’ in the Rain at the venue next year.

- Andrew Roach