Theatre Review: Camp Morning Wood – A very Naked Musical (Asylum Theatre, New York) ★★★

Camp Morning Wood: A very Naked Musical, which opened Off-Broadway on Friday night at New York’s Asylum Theatre, lives up to its title, and then some. It’s camper than a row of tents and joyously body-positive, with a nearly continuous display of male nudity from the fearless and fully committed ensemble cast who seem just as excited to be performing live on stage again as the (fully vaccinated, fully clothed) audience is to be watching an in-person musical after over a year of dark venues in the city.

Thomas Delgado as Randy in Camp Morning Wood.

What’s the story morning glory? Well, when the show is this much fun, who the hell cares! But just in case you’re not already sold on a camp gay musical heavy on the nudity, here goes:

Randy (Thomas Delgado), a recently single, just-turned-30, uptight, hookup app-obsessed gay man with low-self esteem and bad taste in twinks, gets lost on his way to an upstate cabin in the woods. In a narrative structure that playfully pays homage to The Wizard of Oz and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, he soon finds himself in a queertopian male naturist camp run by the flamboyant and fabulous Frenchman, Jacques (Brady Vigness), where he meets the large and proud, big-hearted leather bear Hunter (Anthony Logan Cole), the adorable and perhaps unlikely BDSM instructor Derek (Chris Ogren), and Titus (Da’Merius Ford), who does not want you to forget that he has a PhD while you’re busy admiring his manhood, as he sings in his gospel-infused showstopper A BBC’s lament. Vapid, conceited gay sugarbaby-wannabe Kincaid (Sean Stephens) enters the scene to perform a Britney-inspired pop number, but despite his shallowness Jacques and Randy are both infatuated with him.

Chris Ogren as Derek, Brady Vigness as Jacques, Da’Merius Ford as Titus, Anthony Logan Cole as Hunter, and Thomas Delgado as Randy in Camp Morning Wood.

All the naked fun is soon interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a conservative senator (Shelton Lindsay) who wants to close Camp Morning Wood for good and replace it with a megachurch and fracking site. Can they save the camp while singing camp tunes? You’ll have to see the show to find out.

The plot though is really just an excuse for a string of upbeat, catchy, and often hilarious musical numbers by Jay Falzone which the talented and charismatic cast give their all to. The fun and fruity choreography, by Jashiro Dean, is well-executed, and director Marc Eardley keeps things tight and pacy, making the most of every beat and making good use of the thrust stage and proximity to the audience. The tone is sweet and the sexual references are just the right side of filthy. The nudity itself, like the experience of being in a real naturist environment, is mostly more about freedom, self-confidence, and self-acceptance than it is about sex, and that feeling of liberation transfers to the audience too. Credit should also be given to the cast for taking on multiple roles with clear character work distinguishing them. Although this is a revival of the 2019 production there are a few topical jokes in there that keep things feeling fresh.

Anthony Logan Cole as Hunter, Sean Stephens as Kincaid, and Chris Ogren as Derek in Camp Morning Wood.

Camp Morning Wood is a joyous, delightfully silly, ninety-minute riot of colour, where the trees wear silver sequined hot pants, the humans wear nada, and there’s even a touching and timely message about jettisoning our digital devices in favour of real human connection. A fun night out this Pride month, and a good reason to get your butt back in a theatre seat. You’ll have a gay old time.

By James Kleinmann

Camp Morning Wood: A very Naked Musical runs on select dates until August 29th at Asylum Theatre, 307 West 26thStreet. For more details and to purchase tickets head to the official website.

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