(PG-13) 3 stars

(PG-13) 3 stars
Lo, and a cute heterosexual guy shall appear to show them the way. That’s the way it is in Camp, a silly, but pleasant rag-tag musical about a group of young actors, singers and dancers attending an musical arts camp in the country. All hell breaks loose when Vlad (Daniel Letterle) arrives at Camp Ovation with his guitar slung over his shoulders. “Ooooh, he’s straight,” says one of the kids, as all the boys and girls look on in wonder. Although many of the females are hetero, it appears that straight males are few and far between. And so Vlad, with his vaguely athletic body (the filmmakers wet him down whenever they show his bare torso to make him glisten), tousled hair and boy band good looks, becomes the center of attention at camp, especially when he strums his guitar and sings a dreamy version of the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses.” Soap opera subplots abound, most of them somehow Vlad-related. Roommate Michael (Robin De Jesus), a forlorn lad estranged from his parents, falls for him in an instant. A bold sort who attended his junior prom in drag, Michael turns into a plate of quivering Jell-O in Vlad’s presence. When Vlad suggests that, since he’s never slept with a woman, Michael may only think he’s gay, Michael dutifully sets out to bed one of his female campmates. Jill (Carmel native Alana Allen), who has enjoyed a successful long-standing Peppermint Patty/Marcie personal dynamic with young Fritzi (Anne Kendrick), abandons her protégé shortly after getting a taste of the Vlad-ster. Big mistake, for her action sets off Fritzi, leading to a furious reaction straight out of “All About Eve.” Vlad, clearly getting the most bang out of his camp tuition, also beds Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat), an insecure girl so unpopular back home that she had to beg her brother to accompany her to the junior prom. Meanwhile Dee (Sasha Allen), a diva-in-training, fearful of becoming a life-long fag hag, decides she had better sleep around. Guess who she turns to? Pity poor Jenna (Tiffany Taylor), whose physical discomfort prevents her from catching a full dose of Vlad fever. You see, although she is only a teensy bit overweight, her idiot father has had her jaw wired shut. Determined as can be, she still manages to do Shakespeare and belt out some tunes. The angst, by the way, is not confined to the adolescents. Camp Ovation Guest director Bert Hanley (Don Dixon) is an alcoholic burnout whose last Broadway hit was in 1989. He delivers a tirade to the young ones, essentially stating that the musical is a dying art form, especially since 42nd Street has been “turned into a theme park.” Clearly, Bert is beyond redemption. But wait — here comes Vlad! Thank God all these poor souls have a Vlad to fix things up. Maybe the filmmakers can cook up a TV series — a sort-of reverse version of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy — where Vlad travels from town to town, bringing new beginnings to the lives of gays, artistic girls and drunks everywhere. Come to think of it, my life isn’t exactly a bed of roses. Somebody, get me a heterosexual male, stat! Cheesy and chintzy though it may be, the Fame-inspired Camp makes for pleasant viewing more often than not. The young cast is talented enough to sell even the most heavy-handed moments of writer/director Todd Graff’s screenplay and most of the songs work. Michael Gore (Fame) and Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime) contribute two original numbers and the film uses one Burt Bacharach & Hal David number and three from Stephen Sondheim, who makes a cameo appearance. Incidentally, the film was shot on the grounds of Stagedoor Manor, the real life arts camp that Graff attended for three years, after which he served as a counselor for two more. No word on whether he had a straight roommate to guide him into adulthood.

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