At Camp Validation, err, Ovation, a motley crew of queens, fag hags, subservient losers, fat girls and one straight dude lament their outré afflictions before learning to accept themselves via their shared passion for song and dance. Camp is meant to be a playful homage to the performing arts center Stagedoor Manor (where director Todd Graff once served as a counselor), but this shrill tween version of Fame never shakes loose its maudlin soap opera demeanor. The story follows transgender Latino Michael (Robin De Jesus) and his relationship with straight boy Vlad (David Letterle), a mini Dave Matthews who ends up seducing more than the unpopular Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat). Tony-nominee Graff, whose previous screenwriting credits include Angie and the Fran Drescher classic The Beautician and the Beast, creates in Vlad a genuinely troublesome and illusive gay fantasy: a cute, white “golden boy” so comfortable with his sexuality that he becomes the supreme object of everyone’s affections. Vlad is eager to prove that he’s straight (he makes out with not one, not two, but three girls) but isn’t necessarily afraid of penetration. The film’s creepy lasciviousness is trumped only by the presence of an insufferable Broadway songwriter, Bert Hanley (first-timer Don Dixon, who moves and speaks as if he were perpetually contemplating the size of a hemorrhoid cyst), whose insufferable ramblings at one point go as far as to reference the film’s many evolving dramas. Indeed, every character follows their respective grade school sentiments with egregious self-commentary. Graff takes lessons learned from countless Afterschool Specials (Fat Girl sings and emancipates herself from her parents, Bitches pay for her their crimes and Gay Boy learns to love himself) and sets the resulting kumbaya queer fantasy to banal show tunes. But only one of the film’s musical shout-outs (an homage to Company) has any sort of life of its own. Endless catty quips and references to Broadway shows of yesteryear serve as filler material meant to tickle only the most knowledgeable theater queens. So this is what Camp Mariah must be like.
- Todd Graff
- Todd Graff
- Daniel Letterle, Joanna Chilcoat, Robin De Jesus, Steven Cutts, Vince Rimoldi, Kahiry Bess, Tiffany Taylor, Sasha Allen, Alana Allen, Anna Kendrick, Don Dixon, Robert Orosco, Stephen DiMenna
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