Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

A summer camp for kids who adore musicals? Come off it! Only in America...

The title has a double meaning, of course. "Eventually I have to hang out with boys who don't wear dresses," Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat) admits. Not that she minds, because she's a little bit in love with Vlad (Daniel Letterle), "an honest to God straight boy." Trouble is, so's everyone else.

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It would be difficult to dismiss this movie as a rerun of Fame - no streets to dance down, for one - or imagine it as another Gay Pride propaganda piece for the sensitive boys in the band.

Writer/director Todd Graff has created a cliché situation, crying out for Harvey Fierstein one-liners, with a whole barrage of show stopping numbers, performed by a gutsy, feisty, talented cast of unknowns. Wow! Energyenergyenergy, baby! Don't let that music stop. Sondheim Is God!

Actually, he has done something entirely different, while pretending to follow the rules of student productions, with their tangled emotional substructures. Will the camp vamp bed Vlad? Will Michael (Robin de Jesus) know what it is to be loved? Will the fat girl with teeth clamps do anything other than smile through her tears? Will anyone notice that Ellen is a special person?

Graff doesn't go for cheap gags. These are kids other people call freaks, because they care too much, don't fit in and need the artificiality of a stage musical in which to find another love, another life. He is neither patronising, nor sentimental. He is - if the word still has meaning - truthful.

The fumbling relationships are pathetically innocent. No-one is old enough to have the confidence to play the seduction game. They don't know what they want, except they do, but it's impossible. Only in song-and-dance is the heart free of doubt. And what songs, what dance!

While pertaining to be a feelgood movie, Graff has created a unique piece of work that will, eventually, receive its standing ovation.

Let's hear it for the clowns!

Reviewed on: 22 Aug 2003
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A summer camp for kids who adore musicals.
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Director: Todd Graff

Writer: Todd Graff

Starring: Daniel Letterie, Joanna Chilcoat, Robin de Jesus, Alana Allen, Anna Kendrick, Tiffany Taylor, Don Dixon, Sasha Allen, Steven Cutts, Vince Rimoldi

Year: 2003

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


EIFF 2003

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