by Gaëtan L. Charlebois
Calli Armstrong is the co-founder and artistic director of Beautiful City Theatre. A director, actor, and drama therapist, she has worked with a number of theatre groups and not-for-profit organizations using theatre to build community (Centre for the Arts and Human Development, Montreal Playback Theatre, Third Space Playback). In addition to working with Beautiful City Theatre, Ms Armstrong is presently an adjunct professor completing a postdoctoral fellowship in Concordia University’s Creative Arts Therapies department.
ARMSTRONG: While the script for The Full Monty - The Broadway Musical was based on the 1997 hit film, we’ve been pleased to discover that this has not deterred ticket-buyers. Quite the opposite, in fact. The Full Monty seems to be a show that people are eager to see live. The Full Monty is about a group of unemployed steel workers that are down on their luck and decide to form a male striptease act. In addition to being an enjoyable comedy, the show is a beautiful and thought-provoking story of struggle and acceptance. I think the storyline is one that resonates with many people.
To our knowledge, this show has never been done in Montreal. We’re excited to produce it here and we’re thrilled with the public’s expressed interest.
I’m a fan of the movie myself, but I’ve made sure that the choices we made in developing this show are grounded in the text, as opposed to being inspired by the film. I would hope that there’s something in Beautiful City Theatre’s version of The Full Monty for fans of the movie as well as newcomers to the story.
Some stories are just meant to be brought to life on stage, and The Full Monty is definitely one of those stories. I think this is a show you can see again and again.
CHARPO: You have taken the financial risk of booking Centaur Theatre for your run - how do you assess that risk and how do you cover costs?
ARMSTRONG: Well, I think there’s an element of financial risk in mounting any production of this size. We had the privilege of opening our first mainstage show (Godspell) at Centaur Theatre last January, so we had a good idea of the costs involved. We’re thrilled to be working there again. We’ll be in Centaur 2 this time, the larger of the two Centaur theatres, and it’s the perfect size for this show. The success of our first mainstage production left us in a good position to mount another musical, The Full Monty, in our second season. Our other Beautiful City Theatre (BCT) projects, shows and workshops, are also a source of income for the company. This year we produced two shows for the Montreal Centre for Literacy and we presented a workshop at the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers Convention. While these projects are accomplishments in and of themselves, they also provide us with some extra income to support our more expensive projects, such as The Full Monty.
As I’m sure most independent theatre groups experience, finding financial support for the company is an ongoing, year-round task. We’re grateful to be working with a few generous sponsors and to be part of a very supportive Montreal theatre community.
I believe the BCT environment has helped the cast be more at ease with the more vulnerable or “risk-taking” moments of the play. Of course, no system is perfect, but we’ve done what we can to create a supportive environment. And finally, though we are very cautious when it comes to nudity on stage, it’s also important to note that some people are quite comfortable with it.
ARMSTRONG: Thankfully, that choice was actually made for us. When the musical was developed and adapted from the screenplay, they opted to change the setting of the musical to Buffalo, New York. While I’m sure our cast are up to the challenge of Sheffield accents, the voices of Buffalo are a bit more familiar.