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by Scott Weinberg

"'Fame' meets 'Meatballs' - The Documentary"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: Theater Kids. Yeah, you know the type. The offbeat, outspoken, and sometimes downright WEIRD kids who have to be in every school pageant and play. These kids are easy to poke fun at -- because they wear their passions loudly and enthusiastically ... and, yeah, often they're just weird. But as we grow older we (hopefully) learn how to appreciate this sort of creativity, and we build summer camps like "Stagedoor" to help these kooky kids to hone their craft.

I suppose the Stagedoor filmmakers would love for me to call their movie "Fame, only real." And I suppose I could, because that's pretty much exactly what Stagedoor is: a visit with a handful of pretty darn talented young kids, all of whom believe they're destined for a life of stage stardom. Whether or not these kids will ever hit the big time remains to be seen, but there really is something to be said for A) true and devoted passion to one's dream, and B) the fair and objective way the kids are depicted within Stagedoor. It might not be one of the most "important" or earth-shattering documentary ever made, but it's honest, entertaining, and fun. And that's good enough for me.

Basically we get to be a fly on the cabin wall up at Stagedoor Camp, which is located in the still-lovely Catskill Mountains of New York. The camp is populated with energetic, excited, and frequently overbearing young actors, all of whom are there to learn their craft and get some attention. (Hey, all actors need attention; without it, they're nothing but mimes.) The camp instructors and administrators are well aware of the "breed" they're working with, which means they're helpful and supportive -- but they're also well-prepared for hissy fits and pissed-off stage parents, and they know how to deal with sudden bouts of diva-like snootiness.

Whether or not you actively like these campers is not really the point ... and to be fair, even the more obnoxious ones come off as sweet kids once the masks come off. What's most admirable about Stagedoor is that it's a window into a great idea: the concentration on (and appreciation for) the tools of one particular trade. These kids are not being taught to be spoiled movie stars; they're learning how to sing and dance just as any apprentice must learn his trade, and they're held to a pretty professional standard. If you're already a self-acknowledged Theater Geek, you'll find a lot to enjoy in Stagedoor. And if you're not, you'll probably have a good time anyway.

Any time you can take a kid away from home and let him LEARN what he loves for three straight weeks, you're doing something of substance. If there were camps like this for kids who love math or science or (gasp) politics, I bet we might be getting somewhere.

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originally posted: 03/21/05 09:06:47
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/20/05 kelandbum as the fine song from back in the day said: OUTSTANDING 5 stars
3/02/05 Jake I attended Stagedoor as the film was being shot-a look into big dreams of sometalented kids 5 stars
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  24-May-2006 (NR)
  DVD: 27-Mar-2007



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