Review: Camp Wanatachi

This new pop musical satirizes a sexy Bible camp for teens.

CAMPING IT UP O'Donnell, left, and Alabado share sleeping quarters.

CAMPING IT UP O'Donnell, left, and Alabado share sleeping quarters. Photograph: Ian Pai

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Ripeness is all in the strenuously insouciant Camp Wanatachi, Natalie Elizabeth Weiss's electropop musical about a Bible camp where pubescent girls swoon for Jesus and (occasionally) each other. It's not just the campers who are in rut: We're in high summer for this type of Gleeful noise, and based on the young cast's killer pipes and zillion-dollar lighting design, someone here is nursing big ambitions. Weiss and Travis Stewart pen danceable, insistent music that people will want to hear, and the show employs a sweet-but-hypersexualized tone that succeeds as often as it fails. Yet even though well-regarded playwright Bekah Brunstetter pitches in, the nonsung material slopes downhill after a delightful opening scene, leaving the show feeling too long and—pace the bulimia story line—too thin.

Thirteen-year-old Jana (Marissa O'Donnell) is on track to win this summer's Princess of Wanatachi. She's got the devotion to scripture; she's got a golden feather in archery. But she never anticipated new bunkmate Titi (Krystina Alabado) whose sexual frankness (her first, queasy-making number: "You Gotta Use Spit") ignites Jana's spirit torch. Weiss, playing counselor Corky, bobs up constantly with inspirational beats and her wraparound grin, endearing and awkward and hugely loved by her campers. In fact, this palpable fondness for even the objects of mockery gives the show its gently subversive texture. Despite its bubblegum affect and Matt Cowart's frequently blunt direction, Weiss's work raises the delicate and charming idea that, when embraced correctly, Christian intensity is a gateway to transgressive love rather than a barrier to it.

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La MaMa E.T.C. Book by Natalie Elizabeth Weiss and Bekah Brunstetter. Music by Weiss and Travis Stewart. Lyrics by Weiss. Dir. Matt Cowart. With ensemble cast. 1hr 30mins. No intermission.