WIN + INTERVIEW: The Full Monty, Sunderland Empire

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DESPITE the chill in the air, stars of The Full Monty will be baring all. Katy Wheeler speaks to Gary Lucy about stripping off in Sunderland.

Hats off to The Full Monty.

The Full Monty is coming to the Sunderland Empire.

The Full Monty is coming to the Sunderland Empire.

Taking a much-loved film and re-working it for the stage can prove risky.

But breathing new life into the 1997 classic Brit flick has paid off for this touring production.

It’s been playing to packed houses and whipping them into a frenzy with its cheeky closing scene – so much so, the run’s been extended to cater for demand.

At the helm of this comedy about six Sheffield steelworkers turned strippers is Gary Lucy.

The actor is best-known for his TV roles in Eastenders, The Bill, Hollyoaks and Footballers’ Wives, but he says he’s having a ball treading the boards.

“It’s absolutely good fun and we’re playing to packed out houses. I know it’s a cliché, but we all genuinely get on, we’re lucky in that respect,” he said.

The other privates on parade in this band of brothers are Andrew Dunn (Tony from Dinnerladies), Louis Emerick (Mick Johnson in Brookside), Martin Miller, Bobby Schofield and Rupert Hill (Jamie Baldwin in Coronation Street).

The story’s been tweaked for the stage by Monty screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, who’s taken care to retain the passion and pathos which made the film one of the most successful British slices of cinema ever.

All the music’s there too: with tracks by Donna Summer, Hot Chocolate and Tom Jones.

Gary said: “Simon Beaufoy’s such a talented writer and he’s done a great job of adapting it for the stage. At times it’s emotional, at times it’s funny and the audience really reacts to it, you can feel it.

“The energy really builds to that final scene and then they’re whipped up into a frenzy.”

Speaking of the final scene, in which the burly lads whip off their strategically-placed hats in front of a baying crowd in an ambitious attempt to emulate the Chippendales, is surely enough to strike fear into any actor?

Not so, says Gary.

“As long as the lighting guys do their job right it’s fine, you don’t want to make an enemy of them,” he quips.

But did the nudity make him think twice about the role?

“I didn’t have any reservations in accepting the role, it was such a great opportunity to take the lead role in a fantastic show,” he said.

“It’s a gift and I’m so pleased I took on the challenge.

“There are other musicals that have been based on films, like Calendar Girls, and they’ve been very successful.

“I think it’s important to stay true to the film. In The Full Monty we have all the iconic scenes that you know from the film. The same struggles. The same moments.”

Gary steps into the shoes of Robert Carlyle to play Gaz, the driving force behind the striptease.

“I absolutely watched the film when I got the part,” he said. “It’s such an iconic British film and Robert Carlyle is absolutely fantastic in it.

“The play is a great adaptation, it’s larger than life.”

Touring the country in a stage show is a different medium for the actor who rose to heart-throb status thanks to his TV roles which included Luke Morgan in the Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks, Danny Pennant in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, DC Will Fletcher in the ITV police drama The Bill and Kyle Pascoe in the ITV football drama Footballers’ Wives.

“It’s just so different from TV acting, but it’s brilliant. I love playing to those live audiences,” he said.

Speaking of his TV career, he said: “I think the rape storyline in Hollyoaks stands out for me. It was my first major storyline and I got an award for it. It was so sensitively done.

“But I’ve been blessed with roles really. I feel very lucky. I’m open to other characters and roles in the future, but my head is very much in the Full Monty at the moment, I’m loving it.”

•The Full Monty is at Sunderland Empire from February 23 - 28. Tickets are available in person at the Box Office from £12.50 or from £14.40 by calling 0844 871 3022 or booking online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.

•We’ve teamed up with Sunderland Empire to give away a pair of tickets to The Full Monty on February 23. To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: which of these soaps did Gary Lucy star in:

A)Eastenders

B)Neighbours

C)Dallas

Email your answer and contact details to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk. Closing date: February 19.