The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


June 14, 2014

Young cast ready to rock Disney show

— As families decide where to spend some vacation time, the Cresson Lake Playhouse has an early destination that’s sure to kick off the summer season in style.

As part of its 40th anniversary season, the playhouse located at 279 Shapiro Road near Loretto gets the celebration underway by staging Disney’s “Camp Rock, The Musical” from Thursday through July 5.

The musical is the stage adaptation of the “Camp Rock” movies that premiered on the Disney Channel, featuring songs and characters from the 2008 and 2010 movies and a story based on “Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam.”

Director Molly Riva of Altoona has no qualms about having playhouse audiences expecting too much if they have seen the films.

“I think there's always a concern with that any time you have a stage show based on a movie, but I'm not really worried about people expecting too much,” she said. “If people are familiar with the movies, they will still be getting the same songs and lots of dancing done by these very talented young actors.”

Riva found that the movies translate well to the stage.

“Being that there are not a lot of needed set changes or costume changes, it makes it an easy show to transition to our little stage,” Riva said. “The film didn't need much adapting since it was written originally as a musical.”

Audiences need not fear understanding the musical or plot if they didn’t see either film.

The creators basically have taken songs from both films but used the plot line from the second film.

“Everything the audience needs to know is stated throughout the dialogue,” Riva said.

She is equally pleased at the number of youngsters who showed up to audition for a part.

“I needed mostly teenagers and fortunately, I had a lot show up for auditions,” she said. “We had over 40 kids audition and unfortunately at the barn we are limited on space, so I could not cast all of them.”

The cast ranges in age from 10 to 21 plus three adults. Most of the leads have been doing theater for a few years.

“I think we have a variety of experience levels, but most of them have performed before,” Riva said.

Audience members will be transported to summer camp at Camp Rock – the ultimate camp for aspiring musicians.

When Camp Rock opens for the summer, Mitchie Torres (Breanna Rock of Johnstown) arrives and greets her friends from the previous summer. When Mitchie starts off Opening Jam, she is joined by Connect 3 front man Shane Gray (Mike Hale of Ebensburg) along with his brothers, Nate (Isaac McNulty of Altoona) and Jason (Davey Beyer of Ebensburg).

In a spotlight-absorbing performance is Tess Tyler (Hannah Bearer of Carrolltown).

This summer at camp is supposed to be all about the music and having the time of their lives. The camp’s rival and their director’s former band friend invite campers to visit the new, flashy Camp Star across the lake that now threatens Camp Rock’s very existence. To keep the doors open at Camp Rock, Mitchie steps up, rallies her fellow Camp Rockers, and gets them into top shape for the ultimate showdown.

“There is a song every two minutes and the music is really contagious, so the audience is certain to have a great time,” Riva said.

More than a dozen songs are featured, including “This Is Me,” “Can’t Back Down,” “It’s On” and “We Rock.”

Dealing with such a large cast, especially the students balancing schoolwork and activities with rehearsals, became a major challenge.

She credits music director Brittney Hipp for helping students learn the music.

“Before I even started, Brittney took a solid three weeks to teach the kids the music and they sound great,” Riva said. “This music is surprisingly difficult for a Disney musical, but they are doing a great job.”

Because the story takes place in the present day, costuming was no issue.

“The kids can costume themselves,” she said.

The musical is designed to appeal to a wide demographic since those people who were teens when the first film was released are now in their 20s and younger kids have been watching it on DVD for a few years.

Tom Lavis covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.

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