The arrival of Bunked! at this year’s Fringe Festival is the kind of event I thought I'd only get to dream of: a new musical with music, book, lyrics, direction and performances all by relatively unknown youngsters that bursts upon the scene as a full-fledged smash production. But that is exactly what has just occurred: Bunked! A New Musical is a smash production that may prove to be the show to see at this year’s FringeNYC.
This tale of five camp counselors, all just having recently graduated from high school and all typically apprehensive over what the future might have in store for them, is both exuberantly joyful and deeply serious. Anabel (Amanda Jane Cooper) is the wholesome good little girl next door, somewhat insecure and conscientious to a fault, on the verge of discovering her own sexuality, personality and true worth as she approaches womanhood. Oliver (Tim Ehrlich) is Anabel’s fraternal twin and as different from she as it is possible to be: he is overtly homosexual and proud of it, highly sexual, self-assured and the “bad” twin (to the extent that smuggling a bit of malt liquor and marijuana into Camp Timberlake is really “bad”).
Both Max (Jake Lowenthal) and (Carmen) Lizzie Klemperer are attempting to come to grips with the various consequences of mortality that they recently have encountered. And Stewart (Ben Moss) is grappling with his own sexual ambivalence and the pressure of having conformed all his life to the wills of his demanding parents. Thrust together during a summer that may represent a final brief respite before they are forced to embark upon their adult journeys, the five come together and drift apart, explore and form relationships, and make major decisions that are likely to affect the rest of their lives.
All five actors do a superb job, both in playing their roles and in belting out the songs that make this show such a success but if I were to single out just one for special praise, it would by Ms Cooper who is an explosive firecracker of a singer and actor. In doing such a grand job, all of the actors/singers are fortunate in having such good material to work with. The book and lyrics by Alaina Kunin and Bradford Proctor and the music by Bradford Proctor are creative, witty and memorable. The tunes are hummable and the lyrics sharp and clever.
What was most astonishing (and immensely gratifying) to me was that all of this was accomplished by such young and otherwise relatively inexperienced thespians. Ms. Cooper, who just received her BFA this year, is making her New York theatre debut in this show. Ms. Klemperer is also making her New York stage debut in Bunked! Mr. Erlich is making his Fringe debut in this show, Mr. Lowenthal will be entering his final year at Fordham College this year, and Mr.Moss is a sophomore at Harvard. Ms. Kunin received her Masters Degree just three years ago and Mr. Proctor his BA in Music just a year before that. Wow! What will these people be doing a decade hence?