This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Dramaramaby E. Lockhart will seem familiar to fans of the movie Camp. (Camp is a lot of fun.) Sadye, once known as Sarah, and her best friend Demi head off to Wildewood Academy for an intensive summer of theatre production, six plays in eight weeks.
The usual summer camp drama unfolds. Demi is finally away from the drab world of Benton Ohio so he can become his fabulous self. He drops his straight boy drag, becomes the diva he knows he really is, gets involved with a vapid blond sex god who drops him right away and realizes that his true love is Lyle who may not be gorgeous but is witty, smart, and devoted to Demi. Demi becomes the star of the summer theatre season, ruling the stage as Bat Masterson in Guys and Dolls and as the title character in Bye, Bye Birdie.
Sadye, on the other hand does not fair so well, and it is in her story that I found Dramarama to go in more interesting and original directions. Sadye makes close friendships with the girls who share her dorm room, all of whom are much more talented than she is, one is already a Broadway star now between shows. Sadye bombs at the auditions and ends up in the chorus of one dance scene, where she is not allowed to sing, and playing Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a part she is sure she got because she is tall enough to pass as a man not because she is a talented actress.
Sadye rebels against the program. She questions her teacher’s methods in acting class, sees him not as a theatrical genius but as a manipulative tyrant. She tries to tell the director that the staging of Midsummer is not going well and that several cast members do not even understand the play. Sadye’s staging ideas are actually very good, and her insight into what is wrong with the production is clear. I expected her to end up directing some sort of show. A better set of teachers would have seen that and steered her towards direction. Towards the end of the novel one girl has to go home so Sadye is offered a much bigger dancing role and I began to suspect a Hollywood ending would follow. It did not.
Much to my surprise, Sadye took the rap when she and Demi were caught drinking on the roof of the boys dorm and was expelled from the school as an overall bad influence on the program. She went home without seeing any of the productions, without getting an heroic send off from her dorm mates, without getting a final scene with the boy she liked and kissed and who ends up never responding to her letter. She does not go home and get a big part in her high school play, none of the kids come to see her, though a few do write, and Demi leaves her entirely by deciding to go to Wildewood full time where he can be himself and be with Lyle.
It was almost like the end of The Chocolate War. Okay, maybe not. Sadye does come away a stronger person. She does learn about herself. But what is so surprising is that she learns that performing is not for her.
There is a Hollywood epilogue. A year later Sadye is reunited with Demi and Lyle on Broadway. They meet quite by accident. The boys are going to various schools in New York City and Sadye is there for an internship as a director’s assistant with a smallish theatre company. It looks like their friendship will be rekindled and that Sadye will have a life in the theatre after all.
I first ran this review on my old blog Ready When You Are, C.B. Looking at it now it kind of sounds like a teenager wrote it. Though I wrote this review in 2008, I still remember the book. I still really like that it’s about an underdog who goes to drama camp only to discover that she really isn’t a talented performer. That certainly turned the typical story line on its head.