The 2006 documentary “Jesus Camp” was considered to be a very effective horror film by secular minded folk. Its evangelical Christian camp director protagonist used borderline brainwashing techniques to indoctrinate the young children under her care. Corn Productions has taken this bleak milieu and crossed it with the lighthearted coming of age summer camp movie genre exemplified by 1979’s “Meatballs” in their new musical comedy by Robert Bouwman and Julia Weiss. The results are intelligent, nuanced (yes, nuanced!) frequently hilarious, and at times, genuinely touching.
Michelle McKenzie-Voigt plays Donna Christian, a very accurate analogue for the director in the film as your standard bigoted fanatic, but the show thoughtfully puts her nephew Gary (Mike Mazzocca) in the funny, compassionate Bill Murray role. Gary is a devout evangelical who is also a decent person. Gary focuses his attention on nerdy Brian (Justin Lance) who lacks the faith of his peers but coincidentally happens to be the Second Coming. The other camp misfit is a Jewish convert, Rachel (Anne Marie Boyer) who is tormented by Christian Mean Girl, Tory (Mollie Laylin) and her preacher in training boyfriend Lee. (George Tronsue)
The songs all have a decent degree of pep, the standout is Brian and Rachel’s duet “Being Christian Makes Me Sad” which inspires genuine tears. The show is also to be commended for its extremely witty dialogue, and very funny background characters. Every camp story has to have a rival camp, in this case some Muslim kids who Donna quite literally seeks to destroy, nicely satirizing the “holy warrior” ethos of the original film.
Sadly, the second act falls far short of the promise of the first, dragging on much too long to an unsatisfying conclusion. Still “Jesus Camp” is a great show for about two thirds of its length.