George Gershwin loved going to nightclubs. One evening when he was “on the town’ with his pal Fred Astaire as they were in a club enjoying a group of entertainers George turned to Fred and said…”Where do all these new young talented people come from”?
Well, the renowned performing arts camp French Woods wasn’t around in the 1920’s ( it’s celebrating it’s 50th year) but nowadays when you’re wondering about the educational background of a Broadway actor or musician many times their early development will trace back to their summers at camp French Woods. I can verify that, my daughter attended for 7 summers in the 1980’s and her best buddies were, Jason Robert Brown, Andrea Burns, and Melissa Errico. I’ll never forget traveling up to Hancock New York on Camp Visiting Day mid summer and seeing them all in camp productions of Broadway musicals. As my daughter wrote in one camp letter. “Dad, wait till you hear my friend Jason play the piano!”
Last night at Feinstein’s/54 Below alumni and campers put on a show which equalled the talent and performance proficiency of most things I’ve seen in Broadway’s most elegant basement. One by one, former campers who are currently in Broadway shows gave humorous anecdotes about their camp life and belted out show tunes. There were also some pretty spectacular performances by current campers. Ron Schaefer who conceived and founded French Woods created a Camp that breeds the next generation of talent. He designed it’s curriculum in a way that lets each camper be what they want to be. The talented youngsters design their own schedule, with 3 major and 3 minor activities each day. Ron and his daughter Beth cop-own the camp which was founded in 1970. It now offers programs in theater, dance, music, circus, magic, rock and roll, visual arts, film and video, sports, tennis, fitness, water sports, skate board, horseback riding and more.
For the past 4 seasons Steven Reineke Music Director and Conductor of The New York Pops has brought musicians up to the camp for some spectacular concerts which have also included some favorite performers on the Pops. One father (JRB) who visits his daughter on camp visiting day also on occasion gives a performance for the excited campers as do other famous alumni.
(Complete photos of this show can be seen on BROADWAYWORLD.COM)