One of the things about making comedy work is that to get to the truthful emotion beneath the comedy, you have to play it straight. You can’t goop up the joke with obvious pandering and knowing winks to the audience. You have to commit.
My favorite moment in Stageworks Fresno’s production of the hilarious The Full Monty is one of its most heartfelt. Played by Chris Mangels as Harold Nichols and Jeffrey Lusk as Dave Bukatinsky, the poignant ballad “You Rule My World” is both funny and sad – which is sometimes the best kind of comedy.
Both men are unemployed and disconnected from their wives because of circumstances seemingly beyond their control. Dave’s beer belly has lent him the “affectionate” nickname “fat bastard” by his best friend, and he feels distinctly unsexy – unable to initiate the physical connection with his wife that would rekindle their affection for one another.
Harold has a vivacious and energetic wife who has grown accustomed to an affluent lifestyle. But he hasn’t found the courage to tell her he’s out of work because of his tremendous fear of disappointing her, and thereby disappointing himself.
They’re both caught in a trap that says they’re less of a man if they can’t live up to some arbitrary standard.
Look at you, you’re lying there
I feel your milky skin, caress your silky hair
For all these years you’ve been with me
I tilt my chin and what I see is
Not feet or knees
You grumble and I stumble
Towards the Meunster cheese
I’m in your spell, a chubby fool
And anyone can tell
You rule my world – my world –
No matter what I do
You rule my world
Look at you – my life, my dream –
My lady with the eighty-dollar
The hundred-dollar haircuts
The novelty appliances we never use
And all those shoes
You bought for when we go on
The Alaskan cruise
My boat is sinking, I don’t care
You’re everything I want
You rule my world – my world –
You’re everything I need
The lyrics are funny – even light and easy -, but when performed as an introspective ballad by two men completely committed to the emotional desperation they’re experiencing, the bittersweet quality is hard to resist.
This song, and the way that Mangels and Lusk deliver it with honesty and truthfulness, introduces the serious emotional underpinnings of a light-hearted musical like The Full Monty. Here we have real men – flawed, confused, but truly well-intended men – exhibiting the range of emotions so many men feel they can never express.
By the end of “You Rule My World” The Full Monty steps beyond a silly, stereotypical musical about regular guys trying to be strippers and into a world where sympathetic characters begin to grapple with what it truly means to be your own person, to make real decisions for yourself and with those you love, and to defy a world that insists upon defining everyone by the strictest limitations possible.
The Full Monty runs through August 6th. Click the photo below to go to their website.
About Just a Moment
The conundrum: I used to review shows. I no longer do unless specifically asked. But from time to time I still like to tell the world a little something about what I saw. My solution: The “Just a Moment” where I will discuss one moment in a show I watch that I found effective (or perhaps ALMOST effective?) and then try to articulate why. Not the whole show, not a review, just something that struck me personally.
They’ll be compiled in this category, if you’d like to see the other Moments. (And yes, the idea struck me while watching Into the Woods.)