Bay Area Musicals casts SF State alum for “THE FULL MONTY”


Pauli N. Amornkul as "Susan Hershey," Briel Pomerantz as "Georgie Bukatinsky," Shauna Satnick as "Joanie" and Jill Jacobs as "Estelle Genovese" in Bay Area Musicals' production of THE FULL MONTY, directed and choreographed by Leslie Waggoner. Playing thru March 15, 2020 at San Francisco's Victoria Theatre. Photo: Ben Krantz Studio.

Whitney Papalii, City Editor

Desiree Juanes as “Pam Lukowski” in Bay Area Musicals’ production of THE FULL MONTY, directed and choreographed by Leslie Waggoner. Playing thru March 15, 2020 at San Francisco’s Victoria Theatre. Photo: Ben Krantz Studio.
Desiree Juanes as “Pam Lukowski” and James Schott as “Jerry Lukowski” in Bay Area Musicals’
production of THE FULL MONTY, directed and choreographed by Leslie Waggoner. Playing thru
March 15, 2020 at San Francisco’s Victoria Theatre. Photo: Ben Krantz Studio.

Applause and cheers filled the Victoria Theatre as the musical cast of “The Full Monty” took their first final curtain bow of the year. One of the cast members included Desiree Juanes who made her musical debut with the theater company playing the character “Pam Lukowski.”

The 2 hour and 45 minute musical production took place at The Victoria Theatre on Feb. 15. The last show is expected to be on Mar. 15. 

“We’ve been rehearsing for months,” Juanes said. “Last night’s audience was so great. They were so responsive and interactive and that’s something that we really look forward to when we put on these productions.”

Marie O’Donnell, actor and SF resident, has seen the musical several times and said she frequently attends local theater shows. 

“I like the music and there’s a lot of show stoppers,” said O’Donnell. “It’s fun and it uplifts you. Also, people leave the theater feeling good.”

Based on the movie, “The Full Monty,” the 10-time Tony-nominated musical was the first production by Bay Area Musicals (BAM) of this year. Filled with comedy and song, “The Full Monty” offers a wide range of catchy music written and produced by Tony-award winner, David Yazbeck. 

Bay Area Musicals was founded in 2014 and has promoted local performance theater for many communities in the city. The production is directed and choreographed by Leslie Waggoner and musically directed by Jon Gallo. 

Juanes’s mother, Kelly Juanes, is a singer and would usually make tapes of famous singers like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston for her daughter to sing along as a child. At around 7 years old, Juanes performed for the first time in front of her family singing Britney Spears’ “…One More Time.”

“I’ll never forget everyone clapping for me,” Juanes said. “I just remember loving the attention and seeing how happy they were.” 

As she got older, Juanes’s love for acting and singing only grew as she continued to perform at school talent shows.  

“It’s like an addiction,” Juanes said. “If I could imagine having an addiction to something it would just be filling a room with joy and allowing an audience to walk away feeling inspired.”

Before transferring schools, Juanes discovered in her last year at Modesto Junior College that if she wanted to pursue a career in live theater she would have to choose between SF and New York. 

Due to being familiar with the city, Juanes decided to move to San Francisco in 2015 to pursue her bachelors in drama with a theatre performance emphasis at SF State. The actor then graduated in 2017 and has been performing live ever since.

The actor has also noted that learning method acting has been a big takeaway at SF State, which has helped her exercise the act of getting into character.

“Don’t just read the lines, read in between the lines,” Juanes said. “You could come up with so many different scenarios that you have developed on your own that may have no relation to what’s been written. My job as an actor is to go ‘How can I dig deeper?’” 

Michelle Ianiro, who plays Jeanette and Molly in the musical, also made her debut with BAM productions and said she met Juanes through the show and the two of them have gotten close during the production process.

Although “The Full Monty” is considered a comedic musical, the show did also touch on deeper topics such as suicide and body positivity. 

“By the end of the show, you’ve taken this journey with all these wonderful characters and you’re just rooting for them,” Ianiro said. “You don’t care about their looks, age, or anything, it’s the confidence they have going into it. I love the message of the show.”

The SF State alum has noted that the cast of “The Full Monty” has been very supportive on and off stage, which has been her favorite part of the whole production. After working 8 hours a day at a biotech company, Juanes said she immediately feels uplifted when showing up for rehearsals.

“Everyone’s looking out for each other and everyone’s always there to lift each other up,” Juanes said. “That’s just been my favorite part about this whole experience and I feel very whole around people when I do a show with them.”