Review


Justin Boccitto and Brian MerkerHis short-lived Broadway career flopping, his new musical rejected, his money running low. Time for a bitter Victor Chase to take a job teaching theatre and dance at a summer camp. He thinks itíll be a passable way to pay his bills and finally get his musical performed. And hopefully find a way to finally write a good love song that will complete his musical. But he ends up getting more than he bargained for.

The Group Theatre Too has been workshopping this new musical for about a year now. They recently completed a run at The Connelly Theater in New York, and itís looking and sounding good with a strong story, good characters, and an opportunity for some great tap numbers.

Professional actor/dancer Justin Boccitto (who really does teach tap) leads the cast and many of those great tap numbers as Victor Chase. Heís got a few chips on his shoulder, little patience for his new job, and a clear intent to keep his new romantic relationship a casual one with the immediately likable camp organizer Claire Vaughn (Jennifer Avila). Not exactly an endearing leading man. But we sense in Justinís performance that his faults are the result of walls heís built up around himself over years Ė walls that, under the right circumstances, can be knocked down to reveal his long-hidden better self. Until those emotional walls come down, you can still enjoy his fantastic dancing.

The story and characters could stand on their own, but the fantastic dancing enhances it immensely. Michael Blevins, who wrote the book and co-wrote the music and lyrics, also directs and choreographs the show. The choreography is highlighted by a mano y mano tapping duel between Victor and Madoc (the emotionally awkward boy Victor casts as his lead), as well as the dazzling Act One finale that shows off the skills of the entire cast which is mostly made up of talented students ranging in ages from ten to twenty.

Lexie Speirs and cast in backgroundThose students are, of course, the students at the Starwood Performing Arts Camp. As they put it in their opening song-and-dance, ďMom and Dad canít deal with me, so this summer Iím a dance trainee.Ē Heather Lightcap is Rosie, the vain, flirty, prima donna-type who always gets the lead role at camp, and Heather impresses with her dancing and her obnoxious personality. Jacob Burlas is her theatre boyfriend Steve who loses the starring role to Madoc, making him almost as miffed as Rosie who does not look forward to Madoc being her leading man. Lexie Speirs is terrific as the shy, uncomfortable, and vulnerable Traci, immediately making us feel for her and root for her. And Brian Merker is sensational as the star of the show. Madoc has a good heart, but he lacks self-confidence, is as socially awkward as Traci, and is stressed by his parents who care as little for him as they do for each other. In one scene he both amuses and touches us as he writes postcards to his parents, switching from side to side as he works on both cards simultaneously. His sensitive soul and inner fears feel acutely genuine, as does his growing affection for his new paternal figure Ė Victor Chase. But will Victor let him down as his parents are doing?

The charming, sometimes powerful show will appeal to both kids and adults, and has the potential to be a successful new show in the youth theatre community.

Performed February 29 - March 16, 2008.

Rob Hopper
Executive Director
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
 

Victor Chase: Justin Boccitto
Claire Vaughn: Jennifer Avila
Madoc Dean: Brian Merker
Traci Elizabeth Myers: Lexie Speirs
Steve Varnell: Jacob Burlas
Rosie Busche: Heather Lightcap
Nick Russo: Hunter Gross
Inez Glazier: Dylan Bush
Biz Andrews: Chris Kinsey
The Producer: Doug Francisco
The Campers:
Nick Ardito
Jenna Black
Michael Breslin
McKenzie Custin
Steven Etienne
Brittany Hoehlein
Roman Micevic
Katelyn Morgan
Brandon Wiener

Director/Choreographer: Michael Blevins
Musical Director: Christine Riley
Lighting Design: Joyce Liao
Production Stage Manager: Greg Loproto

   

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