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Last night in Tampa

Bare facts of onstage nudity

Full Monty actors entertain an all-female audience at a bookstore with stories from the other side of the curtain.

By BABITA PERSAUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 20, 2003

TAMPA -- The Full Monty had gone the full monty, but all Julie Cohn could see was a bright light shining through the silhouettes of naked male dancers.

"I couldn't see a thing," she said.

But some people try, said Christian Anderson, who plays the lead character in the popular musical.

Sometimes, people try to shine a flashlight on the men as they run off stage -- "hoping to catch a glimpse," Anderson said.

At a "Discover Broadway" discussion Wednesday evening at a Barnes & Noble in Carrollwood, the Full Monty players bared all. Not bodies. But stories about what it's like to be in the show, now at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

Anderson, 33, plays Jerry, who is an out-of-work steelworker trying to raise $1,500 for child support. His ex-wife goes to a Chippendale-like performance. "What would you spend to see real straight guys pull their pants down," he asks her, igniting the plot, an Americanized version of the British movie.

The audience at Barnes & Noble was entirely women. It included three retirees who square dance and play tennis, a volunteer usher at the performing arts center and Cohn, a real estate agent who had front-row seats opening night.

She loved the show.

"I laughed so hard I was choking," she said.

The women asked polite questions -- at first. Where do you live? What is it like being in a musical?

Then, stripping came up.

Even if the audience doesn't see anything, the women asked, isn't it strange to be naked onstage?

Anderson, who moved to New York City after high school and waits tables at a Korean barbecue restaurant between acting jobs, said it takes getting used to.

At an audition -- not his first -- he was told to pretend he was at home, stripping in front of a mirror for fun.

Michael Todaro, 29, who plays Anderson's best buddy, Dave, in the play, said being naked on stage isn't uncomfortable. The scene is quick and in the dark, he said. It's the longer, half-naked scenes that are worrisome.

"That's when there's a lot of time for people to look through their binoculars at you," he said.

The show isn't really about stripping, he said. It's about men having the same insecurities as women. His character struggles with weight. Another worries about age.

So when that final scene comes, "it's about stripping away all the crap we put on ourselves," Todaro said.

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