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:: Camp

If you ever wondered what the cast of Fame did before they grew up, they probably went to a musical theatre camp, like the one portrayed in Todd Graff’s Camp. Camp, a not very imaginative title, is based on a real life place called Stagedoor Manor, where Graff was a student and counsellor at the same time as the young Robert Downey Jr, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Mary Stuart Masterson.

There, instead of sports and other more usual types of camp activities, the children perform a new production every two weeks, culminating in one big, benefit show. Needless to say these are not the kids who fit in with their general school life and Camp ticks all the misfit boxes, the plain, unpopular girl, the gay boy rejected by his parents, the boy who wants to be an actor so he can be someone else.

Camp isn’t strictly a musical. Nobody breaks into song to express his or her emotions or progress the plot. Here the plot grinds to a halt whilst somebody sings, or rehearses a song, or auditions, so if you’re expecting another Chicago, you’ll be disappointed.

The kids in Camp are talented, without a doubt, with the notable exception of Daniel Letterle who is clearly not in their league when it comes to singing, but looks the part of a flirtatious pretty boy with the unlikely name of Vlad. It is unfortunate then that the script and direction does not do them justice. Their characters are no more than clichés and their lines of dialogue are no less. The performance pieces are staged with no verve, and this is highlighted when we get the final song that introduces all the actors and there’s finally a bit of colour and movement.

Camp is the directorial debut for writer Todd Graff, who has written Coyote Ugly and Dangerous Minds and unfortunately he is no Bob Fosse. Steven Sondheim makes a guest appearance as himself and it only reminded me that I’d rather be watching one of his productions.