Disney’s Camp Rock – the musical

‘Disney’s Camp Rock – the musical’ created around Disney Channel movies 1 and 2, and based on a book by Robert L. Freedman and Faye Greenberg.
This wonderful 100-minute musical has an eight day, 10 show season at the Kalamunda Performing Arts Centre, 48 Canning Road in Kalamunda. Soon, it can be seen at the Koorliny Theatre in Kwinana.
For a decade, Mel Vivian and Paula Garner have seen children with amazing talent, and nowhere to go. Ignoring the saying ‘never work with children’, and then in a possible memory loss or drunken stupor, they decided to set a group for 60 youngsters aged from 12 to 17, in order to tap into this remarkable flair, ‘BLACK BOX performing arts’ was formed.

The stage is open. Gary Wetherilt’s set depicts a youth camp, for youngsters with musical potential. A large bridge with steps up each side crosses from one side of the lake to the other – linking two opposing camps. A banner on the bridge railings tells us in which camp we are. The realistic woodwork painting was by Stephen McGarrity.
A glowing campfire smokes at the side of the stage. Stage hand Ryan was supervised by the stage managers Katherine Freind. The stage team ensured smooth entrances and exits for the massive cast, not a single build up in the wings, a miracle with any youths’ show.
Ursula Aindinach’s lighting design was colourful, lively, and adventurous. She also operated the console, which frustratingly on the 42C day when I saw this show, not surprisingly overheated after only the first three numbers. The console had to be replaced, but like a true professional, Ursula had a spare computer standing by, not simply a program backup. Full credit, as the changeover was carried out very quickly. Well done.
Great work from the sound designers and technicians – Justin Friend and Alexander Coutts-Smith – who amazingly managed to get the headsets, microphones and other effects up again after the computer crash.
The delightful, melodic band was situated under and behind the bridge, against the rear cyclorama.
The musical director, Phoebe Jackson, conducted the band. The balance between the instruments was perfect and their delivery was appropriate for each scene; sometimes belting it out for a Camp Rockers full ensemble number, and yet soft for a duet. Perfect accompaniment.
Playing David Lawrence’s arrangement and orchestration were: – on keyboards are Jay Anderson and Mitchell Price-Norgaard, on guitars were Braydon Mazza and Scott Delamotte, bass was Meg Vicensoni, and on drums Julian Kissling.

      Brown (Tim Campbell) used to be in a famous pop group, but has now set up Camp Rock on a minimum budget. The idea is to help underprivileged youngsters with stars in their eyes, who are hoping to become rock stars. There is one bitchy girl, filled with her own self-importance, Tess (Chloe Marlow), who seems to be extremely wealthy and has many famous contacts on her mobile phone.
      A group of girls from last year’s camp Caitlyn (Erin Barrett), Peggy (Bianca Thomas), Rachel (Ebony Uetake) and Ella (Isabella Radici-Nicolls) are gathered, waiting to find out if all of their old group will be back. Barron (Sebastian Vidot), Sander (Bella McSporran), and Andy (Sienna Eddy), all arrive and are eager to show off their new Hip Hop skills.
 A shy, nervous girl appears, she is Rosie (Clara Lee) but she is warmly welcomed by Mitchie (Asha Vivian). The love of Mitchie’s life, Shane (Ashley Garner) is late. Eventually, he arrives with his brothers, drummer Nate (Blake Jenkins), ) and the madcap guitarist, Jason (George O’Doherty).
      Brown is horrified to find that an old musician friend, Axel Turner (Ben Kotovski-Steele), has established another Camp directly across the lake called Camp Star. Axel has the latest equipment and every comfort. His daughter, Dana (Christie McGarrity) is also highly talented, and is soon spotted by Nate, but with so much hate between the two camps, can they ever meet? A few seconds later, doing backflips is their young talented singer, Luke (Sebastian Coe).
       Tess arranges for the final Jam competition to be on National TV competition and the TV reporter, Georgina (Fay Groom) is on her way, the two camps are now at war.
The Ensemble comprised:-  Mitchell Bailey, Leona Barnes, Toby Crestani, Sienna Freeman, James Hurley, Liam Hurley, Andrea Jordan-Keane, Aimee-Rose Keppler, Ellie Marsh, Holly Newton, Adeson Oyesope, Isabella Rath, Charlotte Roberts, Olivia Roelofs, Sophie Simpson, Ellie Van Kwawegan, Kiara Vivian, Jack Wheeler, Connie Wetherilt, Erin Whitehead, Tayah Wilson and Alexia Zammit.

Faced with a mob of youngsters, director Katherine Freind, had a mountain to climb in producing this show, however, with the strong backing of both the choreographer Shanice-Kalina Thompson and the musical director, Phoebe Jackson, the task became a mere marathon!
The cast of sixty had numerous costume changes, many were their own clothes, but when two outfits of gold lamé and scarlet sequins being required, costumière Michaela Pavlov still ensured a stunning line up.
Trying to assess children’s shows can be embarrassing, sometimes even the doting grandparent think it is ‘average’. Often one can split the cast into three groups, the half dozen singers specially imported for certain scenes. Then there are the dancers, again from a specialised school, for the opening and finale. The acting is often a disaster with no drive, no chemistry and little understanding what the script means. Well this show has blown that theory apart. EVERY child had ALL of the skills by the bucket load.
Shanice-Kalina has choreographed the most energetic and complex dance routines. Heads wobbled, bodies rotated, arms twisted, knees knocked and the feet tapped – often altogether – and yet not a single performer became confused, struggled or lost beat. They smiled and were amazing; any professional adult troupe would be struggling to keep up.
In the choruses, I always listen for that one flat, strangulated note that the less talented child produces. No, once again the teamwork was brilliant. There were several solos and duets performed with perfect melody and emotion – very well done Asha, Ashley, Blake, Christie, Chloe and Sebastian.
Reading the programme notes for each performer made me gasp. These performers have been in major professional productions, in every theatre in the Perth area. His or her CVs would make anyone jealous.
This show retained its energy right to the closing notes. An absolute pleasure to watch. I look forward to seeing the Second Cast performing at Koorliny Arts Centre in Kwinana.