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Docurama presents
Stagedoor (2005)

"It's all about talent."
- Jeff Murphy, director of the Our Time Cabaret, at Stagedoor Manor

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: April 09, 2007

Director: Alexandra Shiva

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 01h:18m:58s
Release Date: March 27, 2007
UPC: 767685989333
Genre: documentary


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+BB D-

DVD Review

"What time is it? Showtime!" Those words have got to make you cringe just a little bit, though you've also got to respect its gee whiz spirit—it might be easy to have wicked fun at the expense of the subjects of this documentary, but the filmmakers bring tremendous empathy to the project, and have produced a loving portrait. Stagedoor chronicles one three-week season at Stagedoor Manor, a summer camp in the Catskills that caters to kids who dream of seeing their names up in lights on Broadway. (I never attended, but let me fess up to making my parents suffer through more than their fair share of ghastly productions while I was in high school. I was—and remain—more of a Mamet guy than a musical guy; shockingly, the administration didn't take to my proposal for a senior-year production of Glengarry Glen Ross.)

The film focuses on five of the campers of the dozens who have come to the mountains to put on a show, and you can see the pleasure and the relief that all of them take in being in this self-selecting community. In most high schools (yes, including mine) we drama losers get picked on; here, knowing all the lyrics to Rent doesn't make you a freak, but a member of the club. You can see the psychological need that the camp fills for these kids—the look-at-me aspect that's inherent in any sort of performance, along with the relaxation that comes with being part of the tribe. It's generous to say that the talent level of these kids is, well, varied—you'll hear more flat notes in this hour and twenty minutes than you will in a season's worth of American Idol, and you'd better have at least a passing fondness for musical theater, because otherwise, you're in for it. (It's kind of funny that the walls of the rehearsal rooms are festooned with names like King Lear and Macbeth and Othello, but all the chatter is about Pippin and Chicago and Annie.)

The folks running the camp are interviewed as well, with most of them seeming like kindly, indulgent sorts, and a couple of abusive psycho counselors in there to keep the conversation lively by doing helpful things like setting the kids off against one another. (Corky St. Clair is alive and well and gainfully employed at Stagedoor Manor.) There's the inevitable cliquishness that comes with any group of adolescents, and of course a room full of aspiring actors can gin up as much drama over small slights as any band of divas anywhere. From the outside, the factionalism and rivalries are an illustration of what a hermetically sealed little world this becomes so quickly, and the real climax is production week—it's actually rather touching to see the kids so hungry for audience approval, and to see their parents and friends so eager to give it to them. It gets at the seemingly opposite exhibitionism and awkwardness that are so characteristic of adolescence; still, you probably won't come away believing that there's nothing uncool about tap shoes.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Some blotchiness in the transfer, but nothing too terribly distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: A heavy amount of ambient noise, though this is likely due to the location shooting rather than the transfer.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Only chapter stops.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

An affectionate portrait of a group of kids who are happy to sing to the rafters for the summer and need not be embarrassed about it, whether or not Mr. Sondheim is calling about his new show or not.

 


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