There’s a certain strain of Off Broadway show defined by a super-specificity of topic and a clappy-happy vagueness of style, usually sporting the title of Something: The Musical. The subject doesn’t matter (it could be anything from The Jerry Springer Show to a bowel obstruction with an intermission) as long as it has a full tracklist of guitar-driven theater anthems, a few too many smoke machines, and a shiny self-reflective veneer of genre awareness. I’d say it wouldn’t be long until we see Musical: The Musical, but isn’t that pretty much what Smash is?
During its two-hour running time, Fat Camp: A New Musical squeezes its way into this category, but for the most part, the production has enough energy to justify itself. Set at Camp Overton, a retreat for teens with elastic waistbands and social problems, the musical follows Robert (Daniel Everidge), an overweight teen who tries to fashion himself into the camp’s Very Big Man on Campus by acting comfortable in his own skin and refusing to participate in any of the weight-loss activities. Along the way he attracts the eye of female camper Taylor (Molly Hager) and the ire of Brent (Jared Zirilli), the dumb-as-nails junior counselor who sets out to sabotage Robert’s summer.
The plot here is secondary to Fat Camp’s cast of dedicated performers, who throw themselves into their roles with enough fervor to make up for the limited choreography and a few mumbled lyrics. Carly Jibson is hilarious as Daphne, a bell-shaped Southern belle whose only personal goal at camp is to have as much sex as possible. Writers Randy Blair and Tim Drucker (working with composer Matthew roi Berger) offer up quite a few good punchlines that don’t rely on easy fat jokes, as when an antagonistic cheerleader spouts, ”We’ll be in our bunk doing whippets and watching Bring It On.”
A couple of ’80s-style summer-camp montages are especially enjoyable, but the story gets a little lost in all the hands-waving fun. Like a sugar high, the effect of Fat Camp starts wearing off once you leave the theater. For a show about so much corpulence, it feels a bit slight. B