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The ribbon-cutting included Janet Liang, president of Kaiser Permanente’s Northern California Region; Kaiser Santa Clara Physician-in-Chief Susan Smarr; San Jose Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and City Councilman Lan Diep; SPUR San Jose Director Teresa Alvarado; state Sen. Bob Wiecowski and state Sen. Kansen Chu. Coincidentally, Kaiser Permanente also held a groundbreaking Friday for a new, four-story facility in Redwood City, that will be home for specialty care departments, a gift shop, a cafe and a pharmacy. That 197,000 square-foot building is scheduled to open in early 2021.

There’s gonna be a whole lot of jovial people at Hillbarn Theatre between now and May 20.  Women, yes, but also men, because the production of “The Full Monty” that’s now rattling the rafters at the venerable theater in Foster City is a total delight, Certainly the subject matter (overweight and frequently unappealing middle-aged men willing to do almost anything to wide fit dance shoes make a buck) doesn’t sound too enticing, though it is frequently quite sweet, But the familiar storyline, written by Simon Beaufoy as follow-up to his screenplay for the 1997 movie of the same name, is no less than smashing thanks to a first-rate cast and fine-tuned direction by Dennis Lickteig and his team..

Central to the story (updated to present-day Buffalo, New York, from the British town in the original production) is the cadre of unemployed pals all laid off from their jobs at a steel mill. Male pride prevents them from taking a minimum-wage job at McDonald’s or as a mall security guard. But they have families to support and, for Jerry Lukowski (a fine portrayal by Andy Cooperfauss) back support payments to be made or risk being cut off from contact with his young son (an extraordinary Jack Barrett) who idolizes him.

Chris Reber brings a whole bellyful of pathos and angst as Dave, the most out-of-shape one in the group, He’s so depressed that he even rebuffs his wife’s loving advances, thinking she only feels sorry for him.  Not wide fit dance shoes so, at least not in Georgie’s (a sensitive Glenna Murillo) mind.  She adores her man and longs for the years when they cuddled and were soul mates, Parts of Act 1 drag a bit, but then something unexpected happens, like the appearance of a sad faced African-American fellow named Horse (a captivating James Creer) who hobbles in on his cane and says he wants to try out to dance with the guys, You just know this fellow is the real deal – and he is, Suddenly he’s doing the moves, shakin’ his hips and dancing as if he’s 20 years younger..

There’s still more surprises in store. One of the mill’s mid-level managers, Harold Nichols (a finely tuned take on the role by Gregory Lynch), has also been laid off but has yet to tell his sweetly oblivious wife Vicki (a slightly over-the-top but effervescent Adrienne Herro) who has racked up mounds of debt by buying everything she wants.  It’s a joy to see such sexy devotion between a couple who actually look as if they mean it. Reliable actor Brian Palac brings pathos to his millworker role as he deals with his sick mother’s death, while Bradley Satterwhite as Ethan Girard gets a lot of laughs from his running gag.  He believes he can sprint up walls like Donald O’Connor does in “Singin’ in the Rain.”  Time and time again, he gets a big head start and charges off stage, then a loud crash is heard and, moments later, Satterwhite walks back in nursing a bruise or a cut.  No matter.  He’s so confident he can do it, he rushes off again.  It’s a funny bit.

The best part of the wide fit dance shoes show is when Harold tries to teach the guys how to dance, which is pretty much a lost cause until Jerry shows them how to use their old basketball moves and they get ‘looser’ right away,  Enter old-time entertainer and pianist Jennette (an amusingly deadpan Linda Piccone) who wears one of the worst gray-haired wigs in existence and dresses in dowdy flowered blouses and pedal pushers from the ‘50s (though the production is set in present-day time), She’s a crackup even before saying her satirical one-liners..

So, yes, the show is rich with strong acting performances. And though “Monty” has only so-so music and lyrics by David Yazbek,  the unseen 10-piece orchestra under the direction of Mark Dietrich keeps things moving along musically (if occasionally too loudly). Lee Ann Payne’s choreography is the remedy for that, and she comes up with several production numbers that are imaginative and lively. Kuo-Hao Lo conjures up a faux gritty steel mill setting that switches quickly to a bathroom, a bedroom, a front door and, for the finale, a glittery curtained auditorium where all eyes are on the  ordinary guys who vow to do the uhh….you know, the FULL (not the half) Monty.

Kudos to Valerie Emmie who handles costumes, hair and makeup for this show (so perhaps she can be forgiven wide fit dance shoes for Jeannette’s wig).  Lighting and sound are also effective, Judging by the reactions of the opening night crowd – nearly a sellout – there’ll likely be few empty seats for the remaining performances.  And why not?  What’s not to love about a half-dozen blokes who look like ordinary guys giving it their all to earn money for their families?, That’s downright adorable, Mail Joanne Engelhardt at joanneengelhardt@comcast.net..

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