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Theatre Latte Da ready to go all the way with ‘The Full Monty’

At, ahem, first blush you wouldn’t connect the iconoclastic Theatre Latte Da with the glitzy Broadway confection “The Full Monty.”

Yet, the story of a bunch of laid-off steelworkers from Buffalo trying to reclaim meaning for their lives by becoming male strippers has real resonance these days.

“By now, everybody knows someone who has lost their job,” says Peter Rothstein, Latte Da’s artistic director and the show’s director.

Producing the show, which opens this week at the McKnight Theatre in St. Paul’s Ordway Center, offered plenty of challenges (“Where do we hide their stage mikes in the last scene?” Rothstein asks), but also a number of rewards via a heartfelt book by Terrance McNally and a ton of chances for an exciting and engaging show, Rothstein says.

Rothstein saw the show — adapted from the 1990s British film — at a Broadway preview. He loved the energy on stage and the excitement it produced in the crowd, but when he turned his eye to producing it in Minnesota, Rothstein knew that he wanted a more down-to-earth version of the show.

So the big light screen with “The Full Monty” written on it for the end was gone. Other set pieces needed a bit more thought. The show includes scenes in a car and for Broadway, a full-sized car was built. “We realized we just needed a car door to make the scene work, so that’s all we have,” Rothstein says. “It’s a real car door that we found at a junkyard.”

Part of the challenge for choreographer Michael Ferrell was to make the dancing and movement look as though it was being done by blue-collar workers from Buffalo who had never thought before of taking it all off on stage.

“Sometimes, I gave them several steps and asked them to just choose from them,” Ferrell says. With that, he was able to work with the performers to create an organic look for the action, one where you can believe the action you are seeing is natural and real.

And there’s the stripping. Like the movie, the play ends as the characters go “the full monty” — stripping all the way down — and that has been approached carefully in rehearsals to let the actors get comfortable with the situations, Rothstein says. “There’s been a real spirit of play and a sense of humor about it, but we’ve also had to be respectful.”

“The Full Monty” runs Friday 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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