December 8, 2012
By some freak streak of luck, I once again won tickets to go see "Camp Rock the Musical" today from herworld.com (the same website from which I won the "Rama Hari" tickets just last week). This show produced by Repertory Philippines had been showing since November 16, 2012, under the direction of Mr. Audie Gemora. Strangely though unlike other Rep productions in the past, I felt no compulsion to watch this show at all, and neither did my kids. Maybe it is because we know the story already, or maybe it is because my own daughter played the character of Caitlin in their musical theater workshop production of "Camp Rock" just last summer. But hey, a free ticket is a free ticket!
The generally young (supposedly "teenage") cast was basically unknown to me and the general public. Of course, I recognize Markki Stroem, who is a familiar name and face from his joining "Pilipinas Got Talent" on TV. He already had his stage debut on "Next to Normal" (Atlantis). I also recognize Cara Barredo, who had a charming turn as Beth in Rep's "Little Women" a few Decembers back, there playing a minor role as Caitlyn. The rest of the young actors were yet untried, so I was a bit apprehensive that it would feel like a high school production, as early reviews seemed to suggest.
Anyway, arrived late again but only for maybe less than ten minutes, but seating was not difficult. Since we had watched the two Original Disney Movies of the same title, getting into the story was not difficult. The first number I caught was the reprise of the hit song from the first movie "This is Me" by Mitchie Torres, just as her beau Shane Gray and his brothers arrived in camp. After a few more scenes, it was clear that this musical play would be following the story of the second Camp Rock movie, which was subtitled "The Final Jam." (This is not the same play as the summer production of my daughter, which was based on the first movie.)
As with Camp Rock 2, the story is about how a flashier rival summer talent camp called Camp Star threatens the very existence of Camp Rock. Mitchie rallies her friends together to try and beat Camp Star in a televised Final Jam face-off. However, in her obsession for performance perfection, her relationship with Shane gets strained. Can these young romance problems be solved? Which camp will win Final Jam? Since this is a Disney script, I guess you can pretty much guess the answers to these questions.
The stand-out in the newbie cast is clearly the actress who played Mitchie, Morrissette Amon. Amon simply dominated every song she sang because of her powerful vocals. We are witnessing a debut performance of a future star. Even in a big group numbers, her vocal chops rose above everyone else. Her chemistry with Stroem though was not too good in the first act. I don't the problem is with Amon though. Maybe Stroem is too mature, too tall or too mestizo for her, I don't know, but there seemed to be no connection between the two. Fortunately, it did get better in the second half though.
There was a side story where the youngest Gray brother Nate (Nacho Tambunting) is attracted to pretty Dana (Justine Pena). However, she was unfortunately was from Camp Star, and he becomes dorkishly tongue-tied around her. Their scenes were more charming than those of the leads as their chemistry was more palpable. Their seemingly-Jason Mraz-"I'm Yours"-inspired duet song number entitled "Introducing Me" was quite endearingly performed.
The girl who portrayed the snooty Tess Tyler (Cheska Ortega) and the guy who played the star performer of Camp Star Luke Williams (Nelsito Gomez) also had good voices, stage presence and dance moves, as did the guy who played Barron James (Justin Valiente). They can certainly stand out from the rest of the crowd on stage.
For me, the action and songs of Act I was rather dull and forgettable. However, Act II really did a good job to pick up the pace of the story as well as the catchiness of the songs and energy of the choreography. this is most evident in the climactic numbers of Final Jam which were "Tear it Down" (by Camp Star) and "What We Came Here For" (by Camp Rock), right up to "We Rock" at the end. Overall though, "Camp Rock the Musical" was actually fun and entertaining. The songs were so Disney-catchy and the humor was oh-so-wholesome. It will lighten you mood and make you smile. It will definitely make you feel young again. I did. I'm glad I got to watch it.
"Camp Rock the Musical" runs up to December 19, 2012 at Onstage in Greenbelt 1.