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 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!
Published July 29, 2004
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CAMP: DVD (MA)
CAST: Daniel Letterle, Joanna Chilcoat, Robin de Jesus, Anna Kendrick, Steven Cutts, Tiffany Taylor, Sahsa Allen, Don Dixon - and Stephen Sondheim as himself
DIRECTOR: Todd Graff
SCRIPT: Todd Graff
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
PRESENTATION: Widescreen; 51. surround sound
SPECIAL FEATURES: trailers
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: 21st Century
DVD RELEASE: July 28, 2004