From Publishers Weekly
Stagedoor Manor is famous in the performing arts community for transforming young unknowns into the likes of Natalie Portman and Robert Downey, Jr., two previous participants. Rapkin, a senior editor at GQ, follows three campers as they rehearse for major roles in Sondheim shows and recounts the camp's storied history, complete with anecdotes of overly-dramatic directors and lax adult oversight fueled by sex and drugs (far more entertaining that any of the present-day shenanigans). Although Rapkin has obviously spoken frequently with each of his chosen subjects, he neither delves into their stories, nor questions the outlandish things they say. Indeed, one girl's rivalry with another veteran camper is presented with such gravity that it almost seems... important. Then the reader recalls that this was on a one-day production put on by teens in a Pennsylvania forest. Theatre is a powerful force, but Rapkin rarely explores beyond the proscenium. Instead, he embraces the relationship between Stagedoor and the industry with little question, leading one to wonder what the campers who didn't land the lead, or the agent, might have to say about all this.
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A 31-year-old senior editor for GQ, Rapkin indulges his inner theater geek by spending a session at Stagedoor Manor, a celebrated performing-arts summer camp for kids. His account of the experience is a chatty, stage-struck combination of history—the camp has been a Catskills fixture for more than three decades—and human interest: that is, his fly-on-the-wall observation of the final session three talented teens will spend there before heading off to college. Rapkin brings a leavening of seriousness to his mix by stressing the importance of Stagedoor Manor as a place that provides a haven for any child with a love of the arts who . . . feels other. He also writes of the changes that this age of American Idol and YouTube have visited on the Stagedoor culture. But overall this is an unabashed love letter to a facility that remains a microcosm of the New York theater scene. Definitely not for cynical readers, but theater geeks will, well, . . . geek out over it. --Michael Cart