Fans of Todd Graff's endearing CAMP, a fictional account of summer shenanigans at an upstate New York performing-arts camp, will also enjoy Alexandra Shiva's documentary about Stagedoor Manor, the real-life Catskills summer workshop that inspired Graff's "Camp Ovation." Located in Hudson Valley's idyllic Loch Sheldrake, Stagedoor Manor is one the of country's premier summer camps for eager, self-described theater geeks and drama queens ages 8 to 18. For three weeks each summer, they hone their singing, dancing and acting skills in a "safe" environment — such kids are likely to endure teasing and taunting elsewhere — and learn to cope with the fierce competition that awaits them. In the real theater world, says camp founder Carl Samuelson pointedly, "there's no No. 2." Some campers have already appeared on Broadway; others, though enthusiastic, have no discernible talent. But all undergo a rigorous audition and casting process that determines in which of the camp's 12 full-scale productions — dramas and musicals — they'll appear and, more crucially, which parts they'll play. A lucky handful are selected to join the camp's creme de la creme, the Our Time Cabaret troupe, who participate in Stagedoor's usual program and perform a complete show at two local hotels. Shiva follows five surprisingly different campers: Robert Wright, 14, a kid from Newark's mean, gang-infested street who's already appeared in Broadway's The Lion King; Maddy Weinstein, 16, a three-year veteran who, by her own account, isn't particularly talented; Randi Kleiner, 17, a real talent who's also the daughter of Stagedoor's office manager; nonstop performer Taylor Rabow, 14, who, like a number of Stagedoor kids, has attention deficit disorder; and Nicole Doring, 15, a born comedienne with a cynical streak who may be the most interesting of the bunch. Shiva's dutifully on hand to capture all the suspense of casting day; she drops in on a master class whose acting teacher delights in teaching Method through mind games; Shiva catches the tense confrontation between the camp counselors and the Cabaret kids, who've gotten too big for their britches; and, of course, she's backstage for the final performances. Naturally there's plenty of adolescent drama both on stage and off, and if the film ultimately feels a little thin, that's also to be expected; the three-week semester and Stagedoor's single-minded devotion to the performing arts doesn't give Shiva the time or the scope to really explore what these kids are all about. But like CAMP before it, there's more than enough singin' and dancin' to fill in the blanks.
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- Released: 2006
- Rating: NR
- Review: Fans of Todd Graff's endearing CAMP, a fictional account of summer shenanigans at an upstate New York performing-arts camp, will also enjoy Alexandra Shiva's documentary about Stagedoor Manor, the real-life Catskills summer workshop that inspired Graff's "… (more)