Half of the cast waits in the wings, holding bathrobes and their breath. It’s opening night of Theatre Charlotte’s 2009 production of The Full Monty, and the other actors are onstage, stripping toward the fulfillment of the title.
But this is Charlotte, a town with conservative tastes in theater. And this is the oldest continuously running community theater in the state, formed in 1927. And this is an audience filled with a busload of seniors from an assisted living community. Surely in this town, on this stage, before this audience, the actors won’t go there.
They go there.
The stage lights offer a quick peek of the six men in the altogether before turning to light up the audience. The actors rush offstage into the waiting bathrobes and join their castmates, breathlessly turning to see the audience’s reaction.
The crowd jumps to its feet. One elderly woman pushes her walker aside to stand in the aisle and wave her arms. The show is a hit — it becomes the group’s biggest moneymaker to date — and six naked men become a turning point for Theatre Charlotte.