CAN it really be a quarter of a century since the unlikely hit movie about a group of unemployed lads in Sheffield, mostly former steel workers, who formed a male striptease act in order to make some money?

Indeed it is. Back in 1997 Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay touched a lot of hearts with its references to the agonies of 1980s redundancy, being broke and the dog days of the Thatcher era – and the play certainly resonates with modern audiences coping with today’s economic turmoil. Apart from the unemployment bit.

But surely it’s the comedy, wisecracks, unexpected dancing and potential for a real ‘full monty’ that is putting bums on seats – mostly female on first night evidence – on this 25th anniversary tour of the original ‘strip-com’ film which starred the likes of Robert Carlyle, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Addy, Paul Barber, Steve Huison and Hugo Speer.

This production stars familiar television faces Danny Hatchard as Gaz, Jake Quickenden as Guy, Bill Ward as Gerald, Neil Hurst as Dave, Ben Onwukwe as Horse and Nicholas Prasad as Lomper and it is relatively faithful to the original as the lads attempt to somehow rise from the scrapheap of life.

Hatchard, Hurst (channelling Addy’s voice to a tee) and Ward do most of the heavy lifting, quite literally in some cases, with Quickenden mostly as eye candy, plus a strong supporting cast of ten.

Under Michael Gyngell’s direction, It’s a pretty gritty play at times with themes around depression, suicide, poverty, impotence, homosexuality, body image, shame and sheer desperation to the fore.

Ostensibly, the main story surrounds efforts by Gaz to garner enough money to pay alimony to his wife to permit him to continue seeing his son, but each main character has an effective back story which contributes to the general feeling of hopelessness and lack of self-respect.

That’s not to say its isn’t full of humour, uncompromising humour mostly, as the play builds through the first half as the Bums of Steel idea takes shape, leading to the two main second act set-pieces – the Jobcentre Hot Stuff routine and the final dance.

There’s jukebox music from Donna Summer, Hot Chocolate, Irene Cara, Tom Jones, M People, plenty of Human League, James Brown, Primal Scream and even The Verve, plus David Rose’s The Stripper.

And a word for set and costume designer Jasmine Swan whose three huge main blocks of set were regularly manipulated around the stage by cast and crew to portray everything from the abandoned steelworks to the club and police station.

As to the question of did they or didn’t they go Full Monty at the end, well, you’ll just have to book a ticket to find out. Suffice to say, security arrived stage right immediately before the finale in case anyone might have the temerity to take a snap.

The production runs until Saturday (including matinees on Wednesday and Saturday) with a post-show talk by writer Simon Beaufoy on Wednesday evening.