Serving as musical bookends, our lively opening and closing night films convey the profound impact music has on our lives. Both “Rock Camp: The Movie” (November 2) and “Idina Menzel: Which Way to the Stage?” (November 12) understand music’s powerful ability to connect us to our own humanity and to each other. Both musical success stories also allow us the pleasure of spending time with an eminently likeable human being.
“Rock Camp: The Movie” is a surprisingly touching documentary on many levels. The rowdy rock stars are surprisingly approachable, generous and humble, a far cry from their sex, drugs and rock and roll image. The campers have surprising backstories, including a father and his autistic, non-verbal teenaged son, who attend camp together as musicians.
And because the film focuses on its Modern Orthodox founder, ultimate mensch David Fishof, it is surprisingly Jewish. The son of a Holocaust survivor who became a cantor, with five children and eight grandchildren, Fishof is an unlikely cohort for, say, Slash, but this delightful, funny and sweet-faced man gets along famously with rock icons ranging from Gene Simmons to Alice Cooper, Jeff Beck to Roger Daltry, Brian Wilson to Nancy Wilson – without trying to be cool or hip. I suspect they respect his authenticity.
When Fishof founded the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in 1997, with a little help from his pal Ringo, he had no idea that the concept would prove so wildly popular. Fishof dreamed up a way for amateur musicians to play, write, record, and perform with some of the best rock stars of all time. More than 5,000 campers have attended the camps held around the country over the last 25 years.
Directors Renee Barron and Douglas Blush convey the thrill the campers experience while fulfilling their fantasy, as well as the unexpected satisfaction that rock legends experience serving as mentors to fans who remind them of why they started playing in the first place.
All ticket buyers will receive the video recording of my delightful interview with David Fishof to watch at home.
“Idina Menzel: Which Way to the Stage” is also a lively, music-filled documentary about a true mensch. The Broadway diva – celebrated by generations for “Rent,” “Wicked,” “Frozen,” “Uncut Gems” and most recently, “You Are SO Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” – emerges as a multifaceted as well as multi-talented woman playing multiple roles on and off the stage: Broadway sensation, animated film heroine, Adam Sandler screen co-star, songwriter, singer, writer, children’s book author, entrepreneur, designer, and solo recording artist.
This intimate musical biography follows a very warm and candid “star of stage and screen” who is also a mom, wife, ex-wife, daughter, and sister as she pursues a lifelong dream to headline a concert at Madison Square Garden. Directors Annie McCabe and Eric Maldin follow the charismatic yet down-to-earth superstar as she navigates her complicated life and career, creating an endearing, humorous and heartwarming portrait of a beloved artist.