Beauty Idol is a one-act play which largely consists of teenage girls competing against each other for the title of “most beautiful.” It’s a weighty topic, and definitely not one to be taken on lightly. However, the members of this Seattle Children’s Theater drama camp seem to have dealt with it admirably well. All the actresses were clearly having a great time, as was the audience, but they also obviously understood the serious nature of the ideas they were presenting. It’s a genuinely valuable experience for an audience member, to attend a play and spend most of it laughing, but to acknowledge the deeper ideas within it as well. For that, I feel, these actresses deserve recognition.
Just as in another SCT camp’s production of Cam Jansen, the play chosen for this group of actors was positively exceptional. Every actor was given a role with more than just a few lines and the chance to be more than just a support for someone else. The play also fit the age group nicely, and, while it’s always nice to see some boys joining up for summer drama camp, you can’t have everything, and there’s no shame to be found in an all-girl play. Some memorable performances were definitely those of Latifah, the hostess who certainly got the crowd going, and Jasmine Riley, whose attitude was well-played and enjoyable.
Unfortunately, there were moments during the production when dialogue seemed awkward or unfitting. Yet, I feel that this was less the fault of the actors than it was the writing of the play itself. Moments of confrontation in particular were somehow off, lending the play a slightly disjointed air. Still, other than such minor mishaps, the play was very well designed, with humorous caricatures at the beginning turning into much wiser real girls by the end. The conflicts between the mothers were a nice touch, something I didn’t see coming and greatly enjoyed.
Beauty is sensitive topic for discussion, one which we face every day and often find hard to come to terms with. Even if we assert that we find everyone beautiful, we find ourselves making judgments without realizing it, critiquing people for no good reason. It’s nice to have a reminder now and then, telling us to get back on track and stop finding fault with other people based on how they look. Beauty Idol provides this reminder in a funny and delightful way. I thank all these actresses for the prompting and hope they know how much I value it.
When I was sitting in the audience at Seattle Children’s Theater waiting for the lights to dim and this particular show to start, I was in fact undergoing a curious sense of apprehension. The reason for this, understandably, was that I had actually read some of the Cam Jansen books in my youth; books which must have been rather good, because they obviously stuck with me. I can’t say I recall them very well, but I was still hoping that I wouldn’t be disappointed in this reincarnation of a fond childhood experience. And yet, as I watched the play travel from start to finish, I found myself quite pleased, even delighted, with what I saw. From what I can remember of Cam’s endless adventures with her best friend Billy in tow, this theater camp at the SCT got it exactly right.
The play Cam Jansen is an adaptation, or rather, extensive elaboration on the contents of the book Cam Jansen and the Summer Camp Mysteries. It follows the course of the camp from start to finish, with not just one but two whole mysteries to solve. I’ll admit that the play was obviously intended for a younger audience, so perhaps some of the jokes were not exactly my cup of tea. However, it was truly delightful to be plunged back into the juvenile fiction of my youth, when even a simple conversation between a boy and a girl is a matter of high intrigue. It was an opportunity to look back, to see how far I’d come, but also maybe to wonder how much I missed it.
The cast of Cam Jansen is primarily campers, admittedly with an overwhelming number of girls compared to boys, something which seems to happen quite often in theater camps. Each role was delightfully distinct in personality, with not a single role disappearing into the background. I personally particularly enjoyed the fact that every camper received a role with more than just a couple lines. The theater camps I’ve personally experienced have often chosen plays that required some campers to fade into the background and never receive their moment in the spotlight, which I feel is something that the SCT managed to avoid completely. Particular roles which shined were Molly, with her eternal air of innocence and fabulous deadpan delivery, and Eric, who I personally feel got all the best lines.
I believe that the Seattle Children’s Theater did an excellent job of bringing this play to performance level. My one suggestion would perhaps be more work when it comes to projection. By and large I was able to make out all the lines, but when an unhappy child near me would begin kicking up a fuss, it was often difficult to hear what new mysterious discoveries were being made. Other than that, I can only say congratulations to the entire cast on a fabulous production and good luck with all their future acting endeavors.
July 24th, 2008
Cam Jansen and Beauty Idol are closed, but you can still catch the rest of SCT's Summer Season:
Ernie's Incredible Illucinations | July 31st - August 2nd
Vesuvia! | July 31st - August 2nd
Medieval Farces | August 7th - 9th
High School Hamlet | August 7th - 9th
Urinetown, The Musical | August 15th - 23rd
Did you see one of these shows? Leave a comment and tell everybody what you thought!