Every year, St. Michaels University School hosts a musical theatre summer camp, so it’s fitting that this year’s performance is a production about a musical theatre summer camp.
Camp instructors Cam Culham and Donna Williams have turned it up to 11 with the SMUS production of Disney’s Camp Rock, with selections of songs from the 2008 original and 2010 sequel. The two-week program will see the cast of high school students perform several lively shows as part of the Victoria Fringe Festival.
“It’s that teenage energy – they just come in here pumped,” said Culham, who has served as the summer program’s drama instructor for about 16 years.
Ethan Ko and Molly Robson are no strangers to musical theatre, having each studied drama at school and taken roles in productions such as Phantom of the Opera and Legally Blonde. Some of the cast know the lyrics by heart, but others aren’t quite as familiar with the Demi Lovato-Jonas Brothers films.
“I have never seen either movie before in my life,” said Ko.
“It’s funny when you’re going through the songs and some of us are sitting there, rattling off all the words,” said Robson.
“It’s different now that everything’s so accessible with the internet,” added Culham. “They come in knowing all the songs and the moves because it’s so easy to find now.”
The show is double cast, with Ko starring as camp instructor Shane Gray (the role played by Joe Jonas) one night and Sander – originally a hip-hop dancer but rewritten as a DJ in the SMUS show – on the other night. Robson fills the role of Gray’s sister JC (originally Gray’s brother Jason, played by Kevin Jonas) and alternates to Dana, the love interest of Nick Jonas’ character Nate, in the second cast.
The program is open to students outside of SMUS and earns them a high school performing arts credit. It’s also a non-audition program, which takes some of the stress factor away, said Culham.
“A lot of these programs, you have to audition and already have had some experience, whereas we get some students here who’ve never been on stage before, which is kind of fun,” he said, noting Williams covers voice classes, breathing and projection to help students ease into the production.
While two weeks is quite a short amount of time to learn a musical, Robson and Ko said it always works out by the time they hit the stage.
“It’s always freaky when it’s two days before opening night and it feels like nothing’s where it should be, but every year, it’s come together just in time,” said Robson.
“All of us are here to have a good time – nobody doesn’t want to be here, and the show really reflects that,” said Ko. “We’re having fun.”
Performances are held at the theatre at the SMUS John and Anne Schaffter Hall for Music, which seats about 100 people – 60 per cent of whom are usually friends and family, but the shows are open to the public.
“When you get in there and you’re actually on the stage and the lights are in your face, you can’t see which ones are your family members – but somebody’s clapping,” said Robson.
“It’s pretty electric back here on opening night,” noted Culham. “There might be a bit of nervousness because some are stepping onstage for the first time, but they get onstage and they’re supporting each other. They’re very excited.”
SMUS is hosting shows this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., with a matinee on Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $7 for children under 12, $9 for seniors and students, and $11 for everyone else.
Attendees must also have a Victoria Fringe Festival button, which can be purchased for $6 at the door. Tickets can also be purchased online through ticketrocket.co or by calling the Intrepid Theatre box office at 250-590-6291.
For more information, visit intrepidtheatre.com/festivals/fringe-festival.