The committed work of a troupe of truly talented young actors brings much needed heft to
Fat Camp, an always amiable, periodically sparkling new musical, now at the American Theatre of Actors under Casey Huchion’s fast-moving direction.
The show (which debuted at NYMF) is set during one summer at Camp Overton, a weight-loss camp for teens in Southern Pennsylvania (cleverly designed by Beowulf Borritt, making great use of the theater’s stage and walls), where the outwardly rebellious Robert (Daniel Everidge) has been sent by his parents against his wishes.
The rather too-thinnish plot, devised by co-creators Randy Blair and Tim Drucker, primarily revolves around whether Robert, who quickly becomes the idol of all the campers, will regain the love of tough but tender Taylor (Molly Hager) after she learns he’s lied to her, and whether he can outmanipulate smarmy counselor — and former fattie — Brent Von Bingenberger (the properly oily Jared Zirilli), who is determined to take him down.
Fortunately, Blair and Drucker give only a little stage time to the nominal adults, camp owners Mike and Sandy (Marcus Neville and Janet Dickinson, doing what they’re asked), instead focusing on the adventures of the younger set as they experience growing pains while losing pounds.
They include smart-mouthed sexpot Daphne (the sublime Carly Jibson) — back at Overton for the third time — Harry Potter-loving Anshel (the scene-stealing Cale Krise), surprisingly shy Darnell (an appealing Larry Ownes), Brent’s sneaky sister Britta (the hilarious Kate Weber), as well as Aspen, Titus, and Ashley (Nancy Renee Braun, Michael Buchanan, and Tracy Weiler), cheerleaders from a nearby camp who take up temporary residence at Overton as part of Brent’s cockeyed plan.
Not a whole lot actually happens over two hours — romances are forged, lessons are learned, candy is eaten — as the cast digs in with gusto to the rock-infused score by Blair and composer Matthew roi Berger and execute Kelly Devine’s athletic-inspired choreography with consummate skill.
While Blair and Drucker certainly know their way around a one-liner, inside joke (Glee beware) or clever sight gag, one wishes the stakes felt a little higher or that the outcome didn’t feel so entirely predictable — even if it’s hard not to root for Robert and Taylor to eventually reunite.
Everidge brings the necessary warmth and vulnerability to the role of Robert, while Hager is even better, nailing every moment and creating a complex characterization. Both actors have strong yet supple voices that come together nicely on duets such as “First Kiss” and “Feels A Little Bit Like Love.” In fact, Hager’s voice is so good that it seems a shame that she doesn’t get the sort of big 11 o’clock solo she deserves.
Still and all, the show is completely stolen by the delicious Jibson (seen on Broadway as Tracy inHairspray and Pepper in Cry Baby), a truly gifted physical comedian and powerhouse vocalist who knows how to make something out of nothing, more out of more, and occasionally and happily puts the camp in Fat Camp.