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By Mark Sells | July 28, 2003

With heavy echoes of “Fame,” this raucous comedy focuses on ambitions teens at a summer camp for performers. As one of the teachers points out, “These kids are freaks!” They don’t fit in at high school, but are allowed to blossom and go rather mad here at Camp Ovation. At the center of the plot is the annoyingly perfect Vlad (Daniel Letterle), who is outrageously nice and extremely talented. Is he hiding a dark side? His roommate is Michael (the fantastic Robin de Jesus), a drag queen struggling with his sexuality and the acceptance of his peers and his parents. Michael’s best friend is Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat), who feels way out of Vlad’s league, but can’t resist his charms. Also at camp are Jenna (Tiffany Taylor), whose parents so want her to lose weight that they’ve wired her jaw shut; Jill (Alana Allen), the primadonna seductress; and Fritzi (Anna Kendrick), Jill’s intense stalker of a roommate.
The cast is full of newcomers who are all startlingly talented as actors, singers and dancers–the characters all spring wonderfully to life in their capable hands. Meanwhile, Todd Graff’s writing and direction deftly balance the wacky humor and one-line zingers with the more powerful poignant moments, including more than one scene that’s supercharged with cathartic emotion.
Each character has his or her own story arc, and while it’s a bit all-encompassing in its approach (and more than a little symbolic!), the film is thoroughly engaging, hilarious and moving, even when it takes a misstep here and there, most notably the anticlimactic epilogue … which is followed by another whopping production number. And it’s these high-energy musical pieces that make the film memorable–and give it cult movie value. This is the kind of film you can watch over and over again on several levels, especially as you mine the script for knowing jokes about the theatre (it’s packed with them). Yes, these kids are freaks. But they don’t need normalcy … they need fame!

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