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AIPA's Camp Rock The Musical

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The story focuses on two camp sites and their founders, who have a running feud. Camp Rock is run by nice guy, Brown Cesario (Drew Pearson) who has helped young people find their talent and achieve their dreams. But many years earlier, Brown Cesario had "kicked out" Axel Turner (Blake Erickson) from their band, the Wet Crows. Axel Turner is out for revenge, starting up Camp Star in direct competition to Camp Rock, and with better facilities is able to lure some of the Camp Rock staff to join his team, as well as at least one of the campers. As a result Camp Rock is at risk of closing. To save the campsite the campers have a sing-off televised on national television. And the ending well it's Disney so you can guess how it might end. It's not a deep story line, but it's enough to build sufficient tension for the tweens and teenagers.

From the very first number it was clear this is a talented group of young performers. Although the cast was small and some characters were gender swapped this production was full of fun, electric energy and enthusiasm as soon as the lights came up. The music is bright, but the energy from every single member of the cast is remarkable. The dancing is sharp and the unison is excellent, with some reasonably complex moves that make it a pleasure to watch. There were sufficient moments for feature dancers to demonstrate their skill most notably dance captain 'Kelly Goldberg'.

In the lead female role of Mitchie Torres. Stephanie Edmonds a strong triple threat delivers a strong and sharp performance as the likeable hero trying to save Camp Rock. Her vocals are strong, her acting is convincing and her dancing is outstanding. She is one to watch. Playing opposite as the romantic male lead character of Shane Grey is Kieren Gromowski. Kieren plays the endearing boy-band member with charm and class and is well suited to this role. To note the chemistry between the romantic leads was impeccable.

Nick Burton plays Nate Gray, who awkwardly declares his love Dana, played by Imogen Howe. It's a sweet moment in the play providing both laughs and tenderness, and the pair look natural in their roles. Other Roles to Note are Dylan Hayley Rosenthal as the quirky, tomboy best friends Caitlyn who has a really sass and swag and perfectly balances out the friendship with her co-lead Stephanie, Michael O Sulliven as the bumbling brother Jayson who has great comedic timing, Erin Carlton and Sienna Casgrain who burst out with the wrap in one of the numbers and make their characters their own. Each lead had an edge, and originality which I was impressed with.

Every Disney story has that nasty girl that turns out to be okay in the end .. and in camp Rock it's Tess, played by Brooklyn Newey. Newey is convincing as the self-absorbed teen and delivers a confident and bold performance. Her new competition for the spotlight is Luke, played by James Egan. Egan all though at times was pitchy in his vocal, his charisma and dance ability was excellent.

Director Julia Patey has done an outstanding job to deliver such a high energy show without any signs of opening nerves. It's a Disney story with the right feel good moments and the happy ending that will leave the audience feeling all nice and warm inside at the end. The character portrayals are sincere and easy for the audience to connect with. While Pearson and Erickson excel in their roles as the two adults in the show, the rest of the cast are not overshadowed by these two highly talented and experienced professionals.

Credit must also go to musical director Cameron Elkin and Choreographer Daisy Frustaci. The singing is excellent from all performers, and I was surprised by the sharp harmonies and blend throughout the ensemble. The choreography was tight and perfectly suited for this genre with the heavy influence on hip hop, loved the fresh and innovative choices made by Frustaci.

The only problem with the performance, and it was a significant problem on opening night, was the sound balance, particularly through the songs. Some lyrics were missed and some were blasted out, disrupting the mood of the song. But to the credit of the performers, they continued on without even the slightest reaction. Although it was very frustrating on the night, the good news is the problem is one that can easily be fixed - and I have no doubt was corrected for the second show. The performances are the strong, the acting is good, the vocals are crisp and this has all the qualities of a great family musical.

This is an an enjoyable show by some extremely talented young performers. I wouldn't be surprised to see these names appearing in the cast list of professional productions in the future.
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When: August 13th-16th
Where: O'Kelly Theatre, Saint Ignatius College, Riverview Tambourine Bay Road Lane Cove , NSW
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