Otters and Foxes and Bears, Oh My! Camp Morning Wood Brings the Gay Outdoors Inside
The musical in the buff is running at Asylum NYC.
As we emerge from Covid hibernation and begin to venture into the world again, a lot of us are eager to run right back inside for a live show. Camp Morning Wood: A Very Naked Musical, now at Asylum NYC in Chelsea, is one of the first to open up in the city's post-pandemic wilderness. It may not be on the list of shows you're rushing to see, but for this weary quarantiner, it was just the thing I needed to get me out and laughing in a roomful of people again. Jay Falzone wrote the book and lyrics for this raunchy jaunt, and while I didn't leave the theater whistling any of the tunes, Camp Morning Wood delivers a night of comedy, sassy lyrics with affirming messages, dirty dancing, and naked guys.
The show follows Randy (Thomas Delgado), a distracted driver who hits a tree and twirls, like a delirious Dorothy Gale, into a nudist refuge (effectively minimalist set design by Aubrey Weeks) inhabited by gay and queer men. There he meets the head of the camp, the perhaps-not-really-French Jacques (Brady Vigness), who does his best to get Randy to disrobe. But nothing doing. Randy is up for tenure at Columbia (he's a professor of Colonial Queer Studies — is that a thing?) and he can't be "inappropriate."
The camp's other guests try to get Randy to loosen up too, but he's only willing to drop trou for the Britney-channeling Kincaid (a delightfully shallow Sean Stephens). The camp finds itself in jeopardy, however, when the evil Republican Senator Snatch (Shelton Lindsay) threatens to shut down this den of iniquity to make way for a megachurch. We all know from the giddy-up that this guy's religious fanaticism is hiding a big ol' diva underneath, but will the nudists be able to stop his wicked plans before the camp is demolished and they have to put their clothes back on?
Under Marc Eardley's direction, the show revels in all kinds of silliness and camp like this, and Falzone never met an eye-rolling jeu de mots he didn't like. Vigness gets to sing some of them in "Oui, Oui, Monsieur," as does Lindsay in the self-lampooning "Ballad of the Righteous" (featuring hilarious choreography by Jashiro Dean). The songs (with music by Trent Jeffords, Derrick Byars, Matt Gumley, and Jeff Thomson) also delve into a variety of issues. "A BBC's Lament" (not the British news channel), sung brilliantly by Da'Merius Ford, tackles the fetishization of Black men; Anthony Logan Cole extols the virtues of being a big bear in "Beware of Bears"; and in "If You're Brave Enough," Chris Ogden sings about dildos. All the performers get a chance to shine in their own numbers, while the show pokes fun at stereotypes and tries to dismantle them so that audiences can go back into the world feeling affirmed about themselves and their bodies.
That seems to be the intention anyway, though you probably won't leave the theater feeling much different than you did when you came in, unless you have a few cocktails beforehand at the venue's bar, conveniently located near the entrance. Side note: Most performances of Camp Morning Wood are scheduled at times ideal for beginning a night of partying during Pride month. (Make sure to bring proof of vaccination for admission to the show; you'll need it for any post-show bar-hopping as well.) In the end, folks aren't coming to this performance for body-image affirmation; they're coming to laugh, pregame, and see nudity. On those counts, the show delivers. So if you've been longing to get out to the theater and see something fun, Camp Morning Wood is worth shedding your Covid sweatpants for.