A recently found love of mine is travelling especially on my own! Before all the covid shanagians starting going on I wrote about my adventures to London and Hungary (if you want to give them a read you can find them at https://rhysreviews.com/2020/02/21/london-blog/ and https://rhysreviews.com/2019/07/27/hungary-blog-part-one/ respectively) and I just came back from a trip from London to ‘celebrate’ my Vegas Holliday being cancelled. During my Hungary trip, I spent three weeks teaching English as summer camps and throughout my childhood spent many summers away from my family in some sort of youth club camp. Summer camps are a unique experience and if you have never been on one you won’t quite understand the enigma that is these experiences. Time works differently in summer camps with people you have only met for a few days become your closest friends and you have years worth of getting to know someone/arguments/activities in a few days which can be very overwhelming. There must be something about the combination of not being at home, meeting new people and fun activities that serves as a mega bonding experience.
This is our third review of a musical that is a part of the Averno multiverse which spans across comics, musicals etc (think the marvel universe but with some singing) with previous productions including willow – https://rhysreviews.com/2020/10/03/willow-soundtrack-review/ and Over and Out – https://rhysreviews.com/2021/05/10/over-and-out/ with a narrative thread that ties all these shows together. I love the idea of a story that transcends one show, artwork, comic etc as these draw the audience in and from a business standpoint encourages them to follow more of the shows. BitterSummer tells the story of four LGBTQIA friends (Quinn and Cam, Violet and Dahlia) and the connection they build after creating their miniature summer camp in a clubhouse on the edge of the woods. The show tells the story of these queer children and documents the quiet truths of growing up while feeling outcasted that can only be discussed in a welcoming open environment. It truly stressed the importance of building a community and surrounding ourselves with people who love us for who we are this show is made even more powerful by the fact that they have gathered together an authentic to tell the story. This show uses LGBTQIA+ artists to perform their show which makes the messages behind it even more impactful and powerful which I talk about my review of the new musical recording of Rumi (which is available at https://rhysreviews.com/2021/07/05/rumi-recording-reviews/) The fact that the show has been carefully selected not just on the premise of talent but also their connection to the show helps to bring the messages to the forefront and prevents the shows from being accused of using tokenism gestures.
The majority of the ten tracks in this musical are a lot more emotionally driven and ballads which normally I don’t tend to enjoy. While all the songs are great I do believe that a contrasting song would have been included to break of the more intensely serious themes of the show! I enjoyed the song “the story” which was performed by Richard Eyler who has a fabulously theatrical voice that fitted this song perfectly. Richard managed to blend the more campy and comedic moments and then the emotional moments perfectly with both sections seeming very real and authentic! This show helps to inform the audience of where the character is and where the next steps are which is a great inclusion so early in the recording. “The simple Life” was one of my favourite tracks in the entire album due to how powerful it was. Every character has an opportunity to tell the audience about how their life as LGBTQIA+ individuals is not the normal life and is full of trials/tribulations. This song can only help audience members to relate to the characters and feel represented by the people on stage. There are no words to describe how important this is and also how powerful the song was so everyone should go and give it a listen for themselves! This idea of community and the inclusion of chorus was only built up during the song “Twinkling lights” which was a powerful metaphor about how everyone has their light/talent etc but when they come together something beautiful is created which is the main idea of summer camps. This song captures the sense of community summer camps create which was clever.
Overall this is a musical that portrays the idea of summer camp perfectly while also adding another layer in the Averno multiverse. This is suitable for a younger teenage audience due to the themes it explores and the strong use of language especially during “Round and Round.” I would rate this show 4 out of 5 stars!