Camp Ovation is where young would-be performers go in the summer, honing their skills staging musicals – usually old ones. When handsome and straight Vlad (Daniel Letterle) arrives and is bunked with gay guys like Michael (Robin de Jesus) the campus is thrown into a tizz. The girls, like the plain-jane Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat) and the flashy temptress Jill (Alana Allen), make a bee-line for Vlad during and in between rehearsals. Meanwhile, heavy drinking used-to-be great musical creator Bert Hanley (Don Dixon) arrives and injects even more turbulence, but his unsung work becomes the fuel for a brand new musical to stage on the big final benefit night – before special guest Stephen Sondheim.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Alternating between endearing, funny, charming, contrived and clunky, Camp is a strictly accurate and multifunctional title, the film being both camp in tone and set in one. It plays well, though, and audiences will be entertained, especially if they don’t expect or demand much more than a string of scenes flung together, from the film’s two main streams. The often coy relationship stream involves Vlad the spunk as a womaniser, a confused boy and a straight shooter, while the music/performance stream involves song and dance routines from a variety of musical genres.
For all the talent behind it and the performing talent on the screen, Camp doesn’t quite hit the high notes or gives us goose bumps in either musical or dramatic terms, but there are many fun scenes that deliver their payload. Perhaps the musical stream could have been better structured to fit into the story, but the film doesn’t ask to be taken too seriously.
Not like, say Todd Graff’s screenplay adaptation of The Vanishing (1993) directed by George Sluizer and starring Jeff Bridges. Also helping the overall ticket value is a bunch of solid performances from the unknown (internationally, anyway) cast, both in dramatic and musical terms. In fact, there is a feeling that the leads – all excellent – are only the top of the iceberg and much of the supporting cast could knock our socks off, given a chance.
Review by Louise Keller:
With energy bursting at the seams, Camp is a rousing and vivacious romp of a musical that exudes with joie de vivre. Actor/writer Todd Graff makes a splash of a writing/directing debut, injecting a huge dose of fun into this crowd-pleasing comedy about a bunch of super-talented youngsters exploring their musical talents, relationships and sexuality.
This is ‘Fame’ territory and the fact that it may not have the spit and polish of a big budget Hollywood film, doesn’t work against it one little bit. We are swept along by the enthusiasm and verve of the performers, sharing their frustrations, insecurities and hang-ups. We watch them rehearse and perform. But there is also the back-stabbing and in-fighting, which brings some hilarious moments. The guys and gals who are drawn to Camp Ovation are those who live and breathe to perform show songs, and we hear some of these from such shows as ‘Company’, ‘Follies’, ‘Dreamgirls’ and ‘Promises Promises’.
There are the regulars, but there are always new kids who join the group. With a high gay male attendance, the fact that good-looking newcomer Vlad (Daniel Letterle, terrific) is straight is welcomed by the girls, although his roommate Michael (who was rejected by his parents when he went to his prom in full drag) spends most of the film making sure. When Vlad asks Michael ‘Have you ever experimented with heterosexuality?’ Michael replies: ‘You mean sleep with a straight guy? What for?’ And when Vlad suggests he tries sleeping with a girl, the tightly-curled haired Michael (Robin De Jesus, a real scene stealer) tries to explain the odds when ‘I can’t even straighten my hair!’ Shy Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat, appealing) also has her eyes on Vlad, but it’s the blond sexpot Jill (Alana Allen, entertaining) who takes command momentarily when she seduces Vlad with a promise of a ‘big surprise’.
There are plenty of laughs as mousy Fritzi becomes Ellen’s slave, but wait for the big moment for pay-back, that comes as Ellen is performing ‘The Ladies Who Lunch’; guess who has spiked her on-stage prop of a martini? The narrative surrounding Jenna’s weight problem and how her parents have her jaw wired shut, is a little overdone, but her moment in the sun is sunshine indeed as she belts out ‘Here’s Where I Stand’. Don Dixon’s has-been alcoholic songwriter Bert, who tutors the kids, has a suitcase that clinks from its contents of alcohol, but when Vlad finds the sheet music for some of his songs… well, the inevitable happens. And there’s everybody’s idol, Stephen Sondheim, who comes along for The Benefit. Great music, wonderful talent…. what a feeling!
Email this article
TODD GRAFF INTERVIEW
CAST: Daniel Letterle, Joanna Chilcoat, Robin de Jesus, Alana Allen, Anna Kendrick, Steven Cutts, Tiffany Taylor, Sahsa Allen, Don Dixon – and Stephen Sondheim as himself
PRODUCER: Danny DeVito, Pamela Koffler, Katie Roumel, Stacey Sher, Chrsitine Vachon, Jonathan Weisgal
DIRECTOR: Todd Graff
SCRIPT: Todd Graff
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Kip Bogdahn
EDITOR: Myron I Kirstein
MUSIC: Stephen Trask
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dina Goldman
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 4, 2004