Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Gigantic @ The Acron Theatre @ Theatre Row

Beginning its journey in 2009 at the NYMPF as Fat CampGigantic has finally landed off-Broadway with the Vineyard Theatre at The Acorn, and it is a huge enjoyment. This musical about a group of teenagers at Southern Pennsylvania’s number 3 weight-loss camp is an absolute joy, that will have you laughing the entire night. 

            Robert (Max Wilcox) is sent off to fat camp, with only one goal in his sight- to get kicked out. That is, until he meets Taylor (Ryann Redmond), and there may be, just may be, a love connection. The two, along with their other fellow campers must work hard to meet Camp Overton’s weight-loss goal so they won’t be shut down and turned into storage units; but they have to face heartbreak, make-out sessions, a “candy ring”, and some hot-headed cheerleaders and new Junior Counselor Brent to get there.

            Scott Schwartz’s (Bat BoyThe Hunchback of Notre Dame) direction is nothing short of wonderful. He knows exactly how to extract as much whimsy out of each moment, while maintaining its soul and truthfulness. The music by Matthew roi Berger is pop/rock glory, reflecting the real music that these teens would be listening to, is huge and undeniably joyous, filling everyone with the urge to move and dance. Randy Blair and Tim Drucker’s book creates a colorful cast of characters, each with different quirks. While a show about overweight teenagers at a fat camp feels like it could be contrived or mean-spirited it is far from it. Each character is looked at with sincerity and it is absolutely endearing to see this group of misfits as they work together, learn to accept themselves, and love their individualities. 

Aptly, Gigantic is the epitome of a “campy” show- it has no problem with exploiting the ridiculousness of some of the situations or exaggerating obvious punch lines while adding a curveball. Some of the funniest moments come when the characters go meta, like acknowledging that they can’t sing after screeching in attempt or when getting to the titular song stopping all action to point out this fact. Its over-the-top nature is done in a way that it is nothing but pure fun. The show knows it’s campy and isn’t afraid to use that to its advantage, and it is done so with heart and a whole lot of humor, making for a great 2 and a half hours. Even when entering the theatre, you are greeted with a station to write cards to home as if you were at camp, complete with “Hello, my name is ___” nametags, putting you directly in the spirit of the show.

            The cast is truly what makes this piece so entertaining and sweet. Everyone plays their part expertly, each adding a different layer of fun. Ryann Redmond’s (If/ThenBring it On) Taylor is the heart of the show, as you cheer her along on her journey and revel in the beauty of her vocals. Comedic standouts come from Katie Ladner (Heathers) as Britta and Leslie Kritzer (Legally Blonde) as camp counselor Sandy. Kritzer’s timing and energy is positively infectious, with just the right amount of over-the-top for the kooky counselor. Ladner, as super douche Brent’s “loser” sister, steals the show every moment she is on stage. Her facial expressions and inflections (complete with a metal mouthpiece) were perfectly crafted to get as many laughs as possible and the audience ate every bit of it up.

            From the first moment the curtain dropped and the music blared to the last sweet seconds of bows a huge smile was plastered on my face. If you’re looking for a feel-good musical that will keep you laughing, run over to The Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row before Gigantic ends its run on December 20. (You might get the last contraband Butterfinger!).

Review By: April Sigler
Photos By: Chad Batka

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