Stagedoor Manor in the Catskill Mountains, which has honed the talents of Felicity Huffman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Mandy Moore, was the inspiration for former student and teacher Todd Graff’s Camp, a film which never arrived at the truth of what this performing arts camp means for the Future Gay Men, Fag Hags, Three Straight Boys, and Broadway Stars of Tomorrow who go there every summer. Director Alexandra Shiva does not extol the place as a utopia exactly—she reveals how kids break off into cliques, playing passive or aggressive roles within—but does acknowledge the tension the getaway relieves for children who feel like outsiders back home. The mother of 15-year-old Robert Wright reveals how the camp gets her son, who played the role of Simba in Broadway’s The Lion King, away from their gangster-lined Newark block. Every child relates a comparable experience of wanting to get away, either from the pressures of schoolyard bullies or parents who don’t understand their talents. The documentary only scratches the surface of these lives, but it remains goodhearted and agreeable throughout—low on pathos and surprisingly critical of the drama-queen roles students and counselors adopt throughout their three weeks at Stagedoor, like the Cabaret clique turning an apology to the other members of the camp for their elitist behavior into something of a holding-hands vigil. Shiva’s lousy photography picks up and exaggerates every imperfection on everyone’s face, which makes you wonder what all the snotty, perpetually-groping cabaret kids will say about the film when they finally feast their catty eyes on it.
- 79 min
- Alexandra Shiva
- Nicole Doring, Randi Kleiner, Taylor Rabow, Maddy Weinstein, Madeline Weinstein, Robert Wright
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