Camp Morning Wood, now enjoying a much-anticipated revival at New York City hotspot Asylum, had a lot of people talking during its successful off-Broadway run in the summer of 2019. The aptly described “Very Naked Musical”, conceived and directed by Marc Eardley, is now making news again in 2021. Audiences for the show’s opening weekend (which was sold out on Friday, June 4th and had only four seats remaining on Saturday the 5th) may or may not have realized that they were becoming part of New York City cultural history just by being in attendance. After 15 months of darkness, live indoor theater has been born again in our beloved Naked City.. .and Camp Morning Wood beat Broadway to the stage by three months. Did I say “born again”? That couldn’t be more apropos, because remember, kids: We were all born… NAKED! And, this reviewer promises his fellow theater lovers one thing: Even after Broadway opens, you are unlikely to hear Mrs. Doubtfire singing lyrics like, “Here I am alone again, lost in the sticks… It can eat a bag of dicks”… or hearing references to “helicoptering” or “BBC“‘s in The Lion King. But before we actually go into the review of this joyous musical, let’s answer the two questions that potential audience members may have before buying their tickets, even if they may not admit it:
(1) Are the guys really naked?
(2) How much nakedness is in the show?
The answers are… (1) Yes, and (2) A lot.
As anyone who has been to a real nudist event knows, the initial shock value of all that bare skin does somewhat cool off, although (intentionally or not) the creators of the show tease the audience by making us wait a long time for some of the characters to overcome their, uhm, “shyness”. Nudity aside, however, Camp Morning Wood is just, well… hilarious. The book and lyrics (by Jay Falzone) never miss a chance for a deliciously dirty double entendre, a rapid-fire snappy comeback, or some purely unbridled bitchery (As the shallow party twink Kinkaid, Sean Stephens dominates in the bitchy line department, escalating c*ntiness to a whole new
level musical number…). The ass-ets of the easy-on-the-eyes cast of seven men notwithstanding, the show tickles the funny bone just as much as… well, that other bone. There are some mirthful explorations of religious hypocrisy, an entire number about how gay men are prisoners to their phones and/or dating apps (“They don’t know how to use a comma… and I seem to thrive on drama!” declares one lyric.) and the ultimate timeless message about loving yourself. But for the most part, Camp Morning Wood never takes itself too seriously, with its camp-y humor often bordering on yummy over-the-top absurdity.
But yes, Dorothy, there IS a plot. Camp Morning Wood opens with Randy (the lovable Thomas Delgado), a Professor of Colonial Queer Studies at Columbia. (Yes, really.) Having just turned 30 and tired of all the of dating games played by his fellow gay men, Randy leaves the big city and inadvertently finds himself at the titular Camp Morning Wood. The first signs of life are a gang of anthropomorphic trees, a la Wizard of Oz… but these sexy trees throw shade rather than apples (“You better werk, BIRCH!”). Randy soon meets Jacques (Brady Vigness), the larger-than-life leader of this colony of “nudie patooties”. The very French and very naked Jacques gives the audience the rambunctious number “Oui Oui”. The song sets the high energy level for the rest of the musical. Randy is astonished by the uninhibited naturism of the CMW members, and the plot engorges when Randy discovers that one third of a recent threesome, the ultra-vain Kincaid, is at the camp. (New York City is big, but the gay world is small.) We also meet the no-nonsense Logan (played perfectly by Anthony Logan Cole), the gifted (in multiple ways) Titus (Da’Merius Ford), and the cute and sensitive Derek (Chris Ogren). Not all is perfect in this nude gay mecca, however: We learn that a cartoonishly over-the-top Republican senator Dick Snatch (Shelton Lindsay) is threatening to transform the camp into a megachurch with the help of “Big WTF Oil”. Senator Snatch’s introduction comes with yet another musical standout, the riotous “Ballad of the Righteous”. The song is an all-out crowd-pleaser, even getting the audience to clap along and join in the lyric “Fill your hole!” As it turns out, one of the campers is secretly in cahoots with the Senator. Thankfully, one of the characters thinks of a way to save the camp. Will Camp Morning Wood “Rise and Shine” again”? Will the Randy find L-O-V-E, or something like it, with the empathetic Derek? Will the Senator ever come out of the closet? The audience does get the answers to these questions, but not before the cast treats us to the uplifting (and very naked) finale, “Bare It All”.
Camp Morning Wood: A Very Naked Musical has its standout musical numbers, but to the benefit of the show’s creators, all the cast members– diverse yet equally talented– have their own chances to strut their stuff individually. Best of all, the cast genuinely seems to be enjoying themselves as much as the audience, who were exceptionally loud and interactive with their appreciation in the shows I attended. You just can’t get this collective excitement with virtual theater!
With its unapologetic nudity, humorous lyrics and dialogue that never miss a beat, and sharp gay sensibility, Camp Morning Wood is a perfect way to welcome live theater back to New York City. I don’t know if I could sit through one act of Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird (mostly because I found having to read it in junior high insufferable…), but I would not seek medical attention for this “morning wood” lasting more than four hours… or longer!
Camp Morning Wood: A Very Naked Musical runs through Sunday, June 20th, at Asylum in New York City, Visit www.CampMorningWoodTheMusical.com for tickets and more information!