Fringe review: 'Where in the World? The Untold Story of Camilla Sanfrancisco'
By Rebecca J. Ritzel
Monday, July 23, 2012
Bad news for fans of that burgeoning Capital Fringe Festival subgenre, musicals inspired by 1990s edutainment franchises: There is no Rockapella parody in “Where in the World? The Untold Story of Camilla Sanfrancisco” Also, there’s no audience participation, so if you brushed up on your world capitals in advance of this show, prepare to leave as one disappointed gumshoe.
For the uninitiated (that is, for anyone who was not a North American adolescent between roughly 1985 and 1998), “Camilla Sanfrancisco” is a spoof on the computer game and PBS kids show, “Where in the World Is Carmen San Diego?” Both tracked the jet-setting spy as she stole famous artifacts, leaving behind pun-laden clues about her next location. The computer game spawned a generation of geography nerds; the TV show featured Rockapella as the house band and Tony-winner Lynne Thigpen as chief of the Acme Detective Agency.
Expectations were high, then, for “Camilla Sanfranciso,” especially after the success of “Quest for the West: Adventures on the Oregon Trail!” at last year’s Fringe Festival. That Gen-X laugh-riot set a high standard for computer-game inspired musicals, because it played straight to audience nostalgia, and because the New York-based troupe was outstanding. “Camilla” is largely a local effort. It lacks the live music, and in a shock to the ears, the title song is not a Rockapella parody but third-rate Rodgers and Hammerstein. Producer and co-writer Patrick English imagined the musical as a prequel: How did Camilla go from Acme detective to rogue agent? The plot provides a maudlin back-story. The acting and vocal talent varies, and only Katie Nigsch-Fairfax, doubling as a bumbling office worker and femme fatale Argentine crook, has professional-level vocal chops and solid comic timing. The show includes a couple of amusing song-and-dance numbers, including one featuring the refrain “Sahri isn’t sorry.”
The jokes that got the loudest laughs weren’t related to world history, but to contemporary politics--the president’s birth certificate, for example. The gags felt cheap, though, because who didn’t come hoping for a chance to solve more than one geography riddle?