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‘The Full Monty’ showcases musical’s gritty joy

When I saw the stage version of “The Full Monty” a few years ago on tour I found the piece to be fun, but eventually shallow. ­ I missed the gritty details that grounded the fantasy of the delightful, original film.

Those details were still there; it just took a more intimate look ­ — in this case provided by Theatre Latté Da —­ to bring that life out. The company’s interpretation, now playing at the McKnight Theatre at the Ordway Center, gives just enough grit to give us the essential connection to the characters you need to make the overall story ­ — about a bunch of unemployed mill workers forming a strip show to make some scratch and maybe retain some kind of dignity and meaning to their lives ­ — connect with us all.

The story is mainly the same as the film, ­ though the action has moved from Sheffield, England, to Buffalo, N.Y., ­ just with more singing and dancing. Director Peter Rothstein has assembled a top-flight cast of great actors and singers who, importantly, look the part. Led by Joshua James Campbell as ringleader Jerry, the cast also features great turns by Zach Curtis, Reggie Phoenix and Wendy Lehr. Really, this is an ensemble piece, which shows up in some of the best musical moments ­ from the funny (“Big-Ass Rock”) to the heartfelt (two sides of “You Rule My World”) and the purely joyous (the epic finale “Let It Go”).

Oh, and they do go the “full monty” in that above-mentioned finale (albeit with a well-placed flash of lights), but by then it’s not about a few actors showing their all on stage, but about everyone, cast and audience alike, sharing in a moment of pure joy.

“The Full Monty” runs through Nov. 8 at the McKnight Theatre in the Ordway Center, St. Paul. Tickets are $19-$34. For more information and tickets, call 651-224-4222 or visit online.

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