Remember Naked Boys Singing? Well, in Camp Morning Wood, a Very Naked Musical at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, the naked boys also wear tablecloths, take them off, commune with the trees, and defeat a creepy senator who wants to shut down their nudist camp and turn it into just another church/refinery.
The goofy musical centers on male fiancées—one of them a professor of colonial queer studies—whose relationship has been strained ever since they had a threeway where the professor ended up feeling “like the Rock at the Oscars.” They drive away for a much-needed vacation, but their car breaks down outside the gay nudist getaway Camp Morning Wood, where they have a second chance to find themselves, and each other, while warding off an array of male flesh on parade. Things are further complicated by the fact that the guy they had the threeway with, Kincaid, turns up there, and he has connections with Jacques, who runs the place (and who is French, mainly so he can sing a song about “oui-ouis”—a good enough reason for me) and also Senator Dick Snatch, who’s had some oui-ouis of his own.
Conceived and directed by Marc Eardley, the show has book and lyrics by Jay Falzone and music by Derrick Byars, Bobby Cronin, James Dobinson, Matt Gumley, and Will Shishmanian. The cast lacks powerful vocals, but they’re game, with standouts including Brady Vigness as the free-living Jacques, Michael Witkes as the superficially slutty Kincaid, Anthony Logan Cole as a sex-driven bear, and Ethan Gwynn as a well-hung black guy tired of being known for his business. Veering between semi-racy and quaintly old-fashioned, the two-acter leads up to a not fully earned “Who you are as a person is beautiful” message and it’s about as deep as a Here’s Lucy episode, but it moves along and there are witty observations (and Grindr references) and fourth wall-breakings. So enjoy—but don’t touch the merchandise.
What’s the Buzz on The Secret Life of Bees?
Some A-listers have set to work adapting The Secret Life of Bees into a musical.
The Sue Monk Kidd-novel was turned into a 2008 movie with Dakota Fanning as a South Carolina girl named Lily who flees her abusive dad with the housekeeper, Rosaleen, in 1964, chasing down information about Lily’s long-dead mother, while stepping into some of the landmines of Southern racism as civil rights start to percolate. They end up at a Tiburon, South Carolina, place run by a warm woman named August Boatwright, who, with her sisters May and June, runs a bee farm, where Lily learns to lose her fear of bees—and everything else she’s terrified of—while realizing her own worth, and that of Rosaleen, too.
Lily, an aspiring writer, also has to grapple with feelings of culpability in her mother’s demise, along with her nagging sense of abandonment, though dad never seems to give up the chance to track her down and belittle her. In the musical—with book by Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage, music by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening), and lyrics by Susan Birkenhead (Jelly’s Last Jam), directed by Sam Gold (Fun Home)—things are rich with atmosphere, from ritualistic worship of the Black Madonna statue that was once discovered by slaves to the growing fascination with the mystery of bees, which are suggested through hand-held props that are occasionally shaken around. (The statue is gorgeous, but otherwise, Mimi Lien’s sets are purposely simple and straightforward, involving chairs and candles, with a few musicians positioned on stage right.)
The music is varied and vibrant, and the cast is good, with Elizabeth Teeter a persuasive Lily, the brilliant Saycon Sengbloh as a feisty Rosaleen, and deft turns by Brett Gray as a racially oppressed beau for Lily (Their “What Do You Love?” duet is a wow), and Nathaniel Stampley and a cello-playing Eisa Davis as a long-brewing couple. (His insistence that she marry him is either demented or adorably aimed at breaking down her defenses, depending on your point of view.) Tony winner LaChanze is the wise honey-maker who knows about Lily’s mom’s past and Manuel Felciano is Lily’s bitterly resentful dad.
Some of the plot seems convoluted and just about everything is resolved by the end (a suicide in the original novel doesn’t happen here). Furthermore, the gritty doings don’t always cohere with the bouts of magical realism. But again, it’s about creating mood and turning sadness into honey, and there’s a lot of real beauty here. I give this a Bee plus.
What About Bob? Scorsese Finds Out
In 1975, protest singer Bob Dylan assembled a bunch of troubadours and went on the Rolling Thunder tour, playing smaller-than-usual venues as the country approached the bicentennial with disillusionment and fear.
With Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese, the director has shaped that tour—using both old and new footage—to create a purposely fact-bending docu-fiction piece that is alternately funny and lyrical, with musical performances by a white-face-wearing Dylan and appearances by guest stars like Sharon Stone, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, and Howl poet Allen Ginsberg, who’s seen dancing and reading poetry (and discussed as an admirer of young boys).
After the Netflix premiere of the film at Alice Tully Hall and the party at Tavern on the Green, I asked Ronee Blakley—the extraordinary singer-actor who was on the tour and is in this film—what she thought of Ginsberg.
“A dear man, friend, advisor,” Ronee said. “Kind and inspirational, a teacher, an example. I shaved off his beard and often sat with him on the bus, singing William Blake with him, went out socially with him, sat in with him on piano, and much more.”
By the way, the movie got thunderous applause.