Having recently celebrated their 16th anniversary, TADA! has just opened their latest production, Everything About Camp (Almost), a charming new musical about life at summer camp.
When Janine Nina Trevens and Linda Reiff founded TADA! in 1984, their mission was to produce original musicals for a family audience and to introduce kids to musical theater through workshops and performances. Since that time, TADA! has been doing just that: bringing kids, aged 8-17, onto the musical stage through their classes and productions right here in New York City.
Throughout the year, stage-struck youngsters take classes at the TADA! theater on West 28th Street. The kids, mostly from the metro area, come from a variety of backgrounds that are diverse, ethnically and economically. In fact, that's the beauty of TADA! Unlike many programs of its kind, which are geared more toward kids from affluent families, TADA! tends to focus on kids who are financially disadvantaged. They have a fund to help those who can't afford their (already modest) fees pay for the many different kinds of classes that they offer. The programs aim to nurture young people in the arts as a means of keeping them away from other negative influences. It's "not about creating stars," says Trevens, "it's about supporting the best in each of us."
The participants take classes, where they learn performance skills and craft, and even create their own musical, all under the guidance of the specially trained TADA! teachers. "All the people who work on the shows are theater professionals," says Trevens, who has been artistic director at TADA! since its founding and has directed most of their shows. Currently, she's directing their summer production, Everything About Camp (Almost), which opened July 8th and plays throughout the month.
A musical revue about the age-old practice of kids going off to summer camp, Everything About Camp (Almost) features a large ensemble of adorable and talented young actors (many from TADA's Resident Youth Ensemble), talking and dancing and singing about their time at Camp Ichikawaooeemakohooyahoo. There are the older, more experienced returning campers, who like to frighten the new kids with ghost stories and play tricks on them. Then there are the nervous new campers, many of whom just wanna go home. But during their time there, they all find fun in campouts, hikes, and baseball games, making some of the best friends they'll ever have.
The play's scenes, written by Michael Slade, and its songs, written by more than a dozen different songwriters, are crafted to be smart enough for adults to enjoy, and fun enough for kids to get a kick out of. In "Two Pranks are Better Than One" (a favorite among the kids in the audience), two campers decide to team up to double their pranking efforts, and do a little soft shoe routine. A catchy, rhythmic number about dealing with the bugs and gnats that plague the camp is almost reminiscent of West Side Story's show-stopper "America", thanks to Dani Altiere's lively hand-clapping choreography. One of the newer campers tries to keep a brave face as he writes a letter home in a touching little ballad that had many of the parents in the audience teary-eyed. Of course, by the end of the show, camp is over (until next summer), and everyone is happily heading home, with plenty of new friends to write to and lots of tales to tell their parents.