Under the far better title of “Fat Camp,” “Gigantic” won the Best of Fest Award at the 2009 New York Musical Theater Festival. The perky charms of this offbeat musical, penned by Randy Blair and Tim Drucker, are obvious. The music (by Matthew roi Berger) is upbeat, the lyrics (by Blair) are funny, and the direction (by Scott Schwartz) is quick and clever. The show’s flaws — the book is overwritten and the songs are monotonous — are also conspicuous in this Vineyard Theater production, but the cast is so cute and so committed to their roles, they make it fun.
Camp Overton, where a busload of chunky teenagers is dropped off without much ado, is no ordinary summer camp, but the #3 Weight Loss Camp in Southern Pennsylvania. It’s a ramshackle place, run by a couple of horny and insanely manic counselors, Sandy (Leslie Kritzer) and Mike (Burke Moses). But the rules are few — #1 is “No smuggling contraband. No heroin or Ho-Ho’s” — and seem reasonable.
The kids aren’t exactly overjoyed to be at this baby-fat farm. Some of them were marched off by their parents. Others were tricked, like nerdy Anshel (Jared Loftin), who thought he was headed to Star Wars Camp. Daphne (Bonnie Milligan) is back for her third try and resigned to a third failure.
Only pert and pretty Taylor (pert and pretty Ryann Redmond) is actively engaged with the aim of the camp, hoping to “make the old me disappear” through diet and exercise. Everybody likes Taylor, even cynical Daphne, who admires her pluck and innocence. (“Like me, before my first DUI.”)
The camp bad boy is Robert Grisetti (Max Wilcox, with charm to burn), the star of the show and a nice match for Redmond’s Taylor. Shipped off to Camp Overton by “Evil Dick the Destroyer … the Crusher of Dreams … My dad,” Robert is determined to get himself thrown out of camp and sent home. To this end, he sells contraband candy, undermines camp rules, and basically stages a revolution.
“It’s true! / I’m fat! / And I fail to see / What’s wrong with that!” he preaches, in one of the show’s better numbers. As a catalyst for chaos, he’s absolutely on target. He’s also talky, which is the main problem with the show. The songs go on and on, repeating sentiments that have already been heard. Plot points that could be made in a couple of lines of dialogue are stretched into entirely superfluous scenes. And even stray thoughts are over-developed into lengthy songs.
It’s the blubber in the writing that needs to be trimmed away at this fat camp.