Musical theatre star Todd McKenney is no stranger to the uncoordinated. As the toughest Dancing with the Stars judge, he has sat through his share of awkward attempts at the cha-cha. And yet he “jumped straight on board” with Seven’s reality version of the 1997 movie, The Full Monty, teaching eight high-profile Australian men the famous strip routine that ends with a full-frontal flash. Based on a British format that aims to raise awareness of men’s cancers and health, The Real Full Monty culminates in a live performance at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre. For the big reveal, McKenney had a better view than the “ballistic” audience.
“I was standing side stage and I certainly got an eye full of the lot,” he chuckles. “I was so nervous for them. I actually wished I’d done it with them. But I looked after them the best I could and they did an amazing job. They were so pumped at the end. They came off on a high. It was gorgeous to watch.”
Unlike the laid-off Sheffield steel mill workers in the film, this troupe isn’t entirely made up of “ordinary men”. The torsos of several members of this all-caucasian, exclusively heterosexual line-up are easy on the eye (British ex-pat model Kris Smith; NRL player Matt Cooper; AFL player Campbell Brown; Jett Kenny, the ironman son of Grant Kenny and Lisa Curry). Two are less buff but not especially out-of-shape (Sydney radio host, Brendan Jones; Sunrise weatherman Sam Mac). Representing men of a certain age and build not usually associated with the gig is actor Shane Jacobson (who also hosts the show), and Seven football commentator, Brian Taylor.
“Even for the guys with the bodies, getting your body out at the beach is one thing,” says McKenney. “Getting your bits out on stage is a completely different story.”
Many who were approached (including actor Stephen Curry and racing car driver Will Davison) declined. Almost all those who did participate have been affected by men’s health issues, either through the illness or loss of a family member, or, in one case, a friend’s suicide. For McKenney, the show was the wake-up call he hopes viewers also receive.
“It dawned on me that I didn’t have a doctor and I’m 53. I’m at that age where I need somebody to know what’s going on. So I got all the tests done. I’m good.”
With the full nudity lasting “just long enough for the audience’s eyes to adjust to the lights”, the one-hour show required some padding, not all of which is provided by clips from the film, although there is no shortage of those. During studio rehearsals, over beers at the pub, at a King’s Cross male strip show, and by (fully clothed) flash-mobbing supermarket customers, the men bond. Noticeably absent is the homophobic banter that might be expected from a bunch of straight blokes getting their gear off in front of each other. In fact, it is the openly gay McKenney who shouts “Happy Mardi Gras!” while the lads are warming up with their own “daggy dancing” moves.
“I’m the first person to be aware of (homophobia),” he says. “I hear it, see it, whether it’s to the front of me or to the side of me. There was absolutely none of it. You couldn’t get a blokier group of men, and I was included in their socializing.”
If, as with the British version, the show runs to the second season, McKenney has some “elder statesmen-like” characters on his wish list: “Someone like Alan Jones or Jeff Kennett, I think would be great.”