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Review: ‘Gigantic’ at The Vineyard Theatre

December 4th, 2015 Comments off

Gigantic
Go big or go home. At least that’s the vibe from The Vineyard Theatre’s new musical, Gigantic, which opened last night at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row. An earlier version of the show (then called Fat Camp) was a hit at the 2009 New York Musical Theatre Festival, where it received the “Best of the Fest Award.” Since then, the creative team of Randy Blair (book and lyrics), Tim Drucker (book), and Matthew roi Berger (music) has fine-tuned the piece with the help of director Scott Schwartz (Murder for Two) and choreographer Chase Brock (SpiderMan: Turn Off the Dark). The result: a bigger-than-life look at self-acceptance and adolescent angst.

Gigantic is no Spring Awakening (nor does it try to be), but much like the current Broadway musical Something Rotten!, it pays humorous homage to the latter’s gravitas, along with similar silly snapshots that theater aficionados might recognize from Hamilton, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and last season’s cult favorite, Heathers, along with a hilarious Michael Jackson “Thriller” tribute that should win Leslie Kritzer an Obie Award. That’s a lot of purposeful name dropping, which is to say that musically speaking, Gigantic doesn’t necessarily score big in the originally department. But what speaks volumes is the show’s construct and wildly talented cast.

Max Wilcox (center) and the cast of 'Gigantic.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Max Wilcox (center) and the cast of ‘Gigantic.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Robert (Max Wilcox) is shipped off to Camp Overton, “the #3 weight loss camp in Southern Pennsylvania” helmed by longtime fiancées Sandy (Leslie Kritzer) and Mike (Burke Moses). He meets an array of characters, including urban rapper Darnell (Larry Owens), camp regular and general badass Daphne (Bonnie Milligan), nerdy Jewish kid Anshel (Jared Loftin) and eventual love interest Taylor (Ryann Redmond).

Most campers are none too thrilled with being relegated to fat camp, and a plan hatches to get kicked out. Mike’s nephew and junior counselor Brent (Andrew Durand)—who’s lost weight but managed to retain an ego the size of Jupiter—along with his freakish sister Britta (Katie Ladner) are on hand to wreak havoc on the aforementioned break-out scheme. Act II brings the arrival of some swaggy cheerleaders from the neighboring camp, including Ashley (Taylor Louderman), Robert’s imaginary girlfriend. A color wars-type throwdown ensues until the plot is neatly tied up in typical musical theater fashion.

Ryann Redmond (l) and Bonnie Milligan (r) in 'Gigantic.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Ryann Redmond (l) and Bonnie Milligan (r) in ‘Gigantic.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

The Vineyard Theatre, which is committed to producing new works, has been the incubator for productions that have won two Pulitzer Prizes and three Tony Awards. Gigantic pulls out all the stops with a cast of 15, an impressive set design by Tim Mackabee, Technicolor costumes by Gregory Gale and richly saturated lighting by Jeff Croiter. Decibel levels run high with the six-piece band and John Shiver’s sound design, which deliver a bubble gum pop score with an extra dose of sugar.

Leslie Kritzer (center) and the cast of 'Gigantic' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Leslie Kritzer (center) and the cast of ‘Gigantic’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Gigantic is great fun, due mostly to a committed cast that relishes the material. The aforementioned Ms. Kritzer leaves no comedic rock unturned, while Ms. Redmond’s sweet transformation from shy newbie to camp heroine is as heartfelt as Mr. Wilcox’s unconventional leading man.

So many big voices made this reviewer wonder when we might see a slightly rotund Elphaba on the boards (somebody call Ms. Milligan’s agent) or other casting choices that look beyond size. It’s a message delivered in an eye-popping package; hopefully the theater community will unwrap it.


Gigantic
The Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
Through December 20

Matthew Wexler is the Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo

Three to See: December

December 3rd, 2015 Comments off

Do you want “naughty” or “nice” this holiday season? New York theater is offering it all, so gather your friends and loved ones and head to one of our favorite picks of the month!

Ryann Redmond (l) and Bonnie Milligan (r) in 'Gigantic.' (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Ryann Redmond (l) and Bonnie Milligan (r) in ‘Gigantic.’ (Photo: Carol Rosegg via The Broadway Blog.)

Gigantic
Go big or go home. Vineyard Theatre presents Gigantic, a new musical that some may remember from 2009’s New York Musical Theater Festival, when it was called Fat Camp and received the “Best of Fest” award.

Getting shipped off to weight-loss camp is hardly Robert’s idea of the perfect summer, but even he isn’t prepared for what can be lost or gained at Camp Overton, the “#3 weight-loss camp in Southern Pennsylvania.” With biting humor and irreverence, Gigantic tackles the growing pains of adolescence through the experiences of a bunch of misfit teens forced to find solace in one another as they look — inside and out— for acceptance, a hot make-out session, and the last contraband Butterfinger.

Gigantic
The Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
Opening night: December 3
Through December 20

'The Color Purple' at Menier Chocolate Factory (Photo: Nobby Clark via The Broadway Blog.)

‘The Color Purple’ at Menier Chocolate Factory (Photo: Nobby Clark via The Broadway Blog.)

The Color Purple
Director John Doyle reinvents The Color Purple, which opened a decade ago starring LaChanze (a role which earned her a Tony Award). His acclaimed 2013 from the Menier Chocolate Factory jumps the pond, this time starring Cynthia Ervio and Jennifer Hudson. Expect big voices in this musical adaptation based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

The Color Purple
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
242 West 45th Street
Opening night: December 10

Once Upon a Mattress

Once Upon a Mattress
This one’s a wild card, but if anyone can pull it off, it would be the groundbreaking Transport Group. Directed by Jack Cummings III, Once Upon a Mattress stars the loud-mouthed Jackie Hoffman (On the Town, Hairspray) and John “Lypsinka” Epperson (Lypsinka’s The Boxed Set, The Passion of the Crawford).

During a kingdom-wide search to find a princess fit for the hapless Prince Dauntless, in swims the less-than-regal Princess Winnifred the Woebegone (Hoffman).  Unrefined and undeniably charming, Winnifred is like no princess Dauntless has ever seen and his heart is captured.  The truly terrible Queen Aggravain (Lypsinka) goes on a mission to come between her son and his soulmate in this retelling of the classic story of “The Princess and the Pea.” This is a Happily-Ever-After unlike any other!

Once Upon a Mattress
Abrons Arts Center
466 Grand Street
Opening night: December 13
Through January 3

Preview: ‘Gigantic’ at Vineyard Theatre

November 11th, 2015 Comments off

GiganticVineyard Theatre’s 2015-2016 season kicks off tonight at 8pm when the new muscial comedy Gigantic begins previews at The Acorn Theatre @ Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street) on November 11.  Single tickets are available by calling Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or visiting www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/Gigantic.

Gigantic will open December 3 and play until December 20. Gigantic features a book by Randy Blair  (Perez Hilton Saves the UniverseSpidermusical) and Tim Drucker (Perez Hilton Saves the UniverseSpidermusical) , music by Matthew roi Berger (Spidermusical), lyrics by Randy Blair, choreography by Chase Brock (Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark) and will be directed by Scott Schwartz (Bat Boy: The Musical).

Getting shipped off to weight-loss camp is hardly Robert’s idea of the perfect summer, but even he isn’t prepared for what can be lost or gained at Camp Overton, the No. 3 weight-loss camp in Southern Pennsylvania. With biting humor and irreverence, Gigantic tackles the growing pains of adolescence through the experiences of a bunch of misfit teens forced to find solace in one another as they look — inside and out — for acceptance, a hot make-out session, and the last contraband Butterfinger.

An earlier version of Gigantic was presented in development at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2009 with the title Fat Camp, where it received the “Best of Fest Award.”