REVIEW: Camp Rolling Hills

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Book & Lyrics by David Spiegel & Stacy Davidowitz

Music & Lyrics by Adam Spiegel

Choreography by Theresa Burns

Directed by Jill Jaysen

 

THE VERDICT:

”Camp Rolling Hills” understanding those little flittering camping memories in the same way “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” understands three panel comics. It’s a series of charming, genuinely funny vignettes starring genuinely funny kids. A lot of kids. There is a staggering amount of talented children on this stage. (It took me a few tries to count the stampede in the opening number–18, by the way.) We watch them from first of June to the end of the summer–and while there’s a bit of drama that unfolds (and which feels a little more convoluted than the rest of the show), the real highlight is just watching these young people have fun.

One thing I love about “Camp Rolling Hills” is that it doesn’t just feed the kids cute lines for cheap laughs–there’s a wide array of personalities on display, and may I say, these kids are legit comedians with unique schticks. (They’re particularly good at laying into genre comedy, especially when making fun of musical cliches and tropes. That’s a real skill some adult actors have to work at.)

I try to judge a show by what it wants to be, rather than what I’d want it to be. If you’re the type to turn your nose up at sentimentality or preciousness, well–you ought to give it a shot, but I’d understand if you wouldn’t want to. For everybody else–”Camp Rolling Hills” is funny, delightful, and (dare I say the cliche?) often heartwarming in the simplest way. I’m already a little homesick for camp. (Campsick?)

Here’s your point-by-point on what stood out:

  • I appreciate the scenic designer’s (Gennie Neuman) attention to bunk details matching camper personalities. My favorite is the cat lover’s bunk–cat stuffed animal, cat poster, cat ears. She’s into cats. That’s cool.
  • The music (by Adam Spiegel) hits a mark somewhere between musical classics and that sort of jazz you’d hear in Charlie Brown TV specials back in the day. The style feels a little staler by the end, but it’s a lighthearted score that does what the show needs it to do–hit some solid comedic riffs. (My personal favorite is one earlier in the show–about six minutes of song dedicated entirely to the origination of camp nicknames. Like “Smelly,” or “Weiner.” “Play-doh” has a particularly, uh, colorful tale.)
  • Honestly, the whole ensemble of kids does wonderful. There are twelve of them. Please contact me using the contact page noted at the top of this website if you would like a pull quote, parents; I could write one for any camper in the show.

 

WHAT IT’LL GET NOMINATED FOR:

  • OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE.

 

WHERE IT’LL GO:

As aforementioned, “Camp Rolling Hills”  already is what it wants to be–NYMF is traditionally about featured new and mid-development shows, but I already think this would be a crowd pleaser on the regional circuit. The only thing I’d say is I’d love to see a fuller camp set when the next iteration rolls around–there’s so many fun memories there.

For more information, visit: http://nymf.org/festival/2016-events/camprollinghills/

 

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