Fame: SRO at Jabberwocky

Sean Pinto and Nancy Connelly share a dance at center stage. — File photo by Danielle Zerbonne

The playful 1980s came alive over the weekend as about 70 campers, counselors, and staff members of Vineyard Haven’s Camp Jabberwocky took the stage to present an exuberant, if not exactly faithful to the original, version of the classic movie “Fame.”

Every summer the Martha’s Vineyard camp for the disabled presents a musical — recruiting all of the campers to present their myriad talents and enjoy the limelight for a weekend. The show and the annual 4th of July float are summer highlights for many campers and both are terrific, inspiring displays of the sense of fun and creativity that flourish at the 55-year-old summer camp.

Jabberwocky’s “Fame,” which came together after three long weeks of rehearsals, was very loosely based on the iconic 80s film set at the New York School of the Performing Arts. The final product incorporated a little disco, a little Madonna, a little Michael Jackson, and a little Star Wars for a rollicking romp through the 80s that, despite the heat, provided both the audience and 60-plus actors with two fun, high-energy evenings in the camp’s rustic performance barn.

Rather than the original’s soap opera storyline, Jabberwocky’s “Fame” was based on the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland “Let’s-Put-on-a-Show” formula. In this case the school’s existence is being threatened by none other than Darth Vader (or actually six Darth Vaders). Undaunted, the students pool their collective talents and rehearse like mad to present a performance that will prove their worth.

“Fame had the quality of being an ensemble piece that would allow for many mini-performances, which is our forte,” said camp director and show co-director Arthur Bradford on the choice of material.

A rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s classic disco era song “I Will Survive,” featuring four soloists and a percussion and tribal dance extravaganza were some of the show’s highlights. The camp’s weekly talent shows were mined to add to the production a spot-on Michael Jackson “Thriller” dance solo, a violin duet, and a dramatic delivery of the traditional preshow reading of the poem “Jabberwocky” by camp founder Helen “Hellcat” Lamb. The yearly show is designed to give every camper some stage time and the clever production managed to involve all, along with about 35 staff members. The final number, Madonna’s “Just Like a Prayer” featured all cast members, and had the capacity crowd clapping, singing, cheering, and yelling for more.

Jojo Romero De Slavy, the other co-director who is also the camp nurse, said that the campers look forward every year to the show and some even show up at the beginning of the summer with costumes in hand. For camper Paul Remy, the best thing about the show is its energy, which he certainly demonstrated throughout. Peter O’Hara says his favorite part is watching the audience. He agreed with Faith Carter that the rehearsal schedule is grueling but a lot of fun.

After the performance, a jubilant cast was joined by audience members in the cafeteria for sundaes and other sweets. Tired but exhilarated, Ms. De Slavy commented, “It’s always a little tough pulling it together, but the end product is really rewarding.”