The stage was set with its characteristic flare of color. The cabin was packed, as always, with kids and adults pouring off the seats and onto the floor. Everyone knew what to expect from Camp Jabberwocky’s annual play — an uplifting spectacle well worth a hardwood seat. This year the Camp put on The Great Gatsby.
But there was one void. This was the first summer that Helen Lamb, the creator of Camp Jabberwocky, didn’t stand up to recite the famous Lewis Carroll Jabberwocky poem before the opening scene. Mrs. Lamb died last August in her Island home at the age of 97. As a silent tribute, the camp shined a spotlight on a solitary flower on stage before the play began. A formal service for Mrs. Lamb will take place on Thursday, July 26 at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs, beginning at 2 p.m.
When the curtain lifted, the iconic eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg leered from the main backdrop, watching over the energetic performers and entranced audience. Those eyes constituted one of several impressive pieces of scenery, all created by the team of sleepless Jabberwocky counselors. They replicated war trenches, lavish mansions, and even turned camper Myles Islen’s wheelchair into a glimmering Rolls Royce.
A departure from last year’s hilarious and outrageous storyline about chasing an evil Queen Gaga through Camp Jabberwocky’s gateway to Narnia, this year’s play was a heartfelt story of love and loss, adapted to the stage from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic by counselors Mike Leon and Adam Garland. Counselors also worked the lights, sound and provided the pit band.
Gatsby, played by several campers, pursued his long-lost love, Daisy, a role also shared by several campers. Daisy thought her beloved Gatsby had died in the war, and went on to live a full life of luxury without him. When she finally sees Gatsby, alive and well, the two can only gaze longingly at each other and reminisce on their once-upon-a-time love.
Of course, the actors still sent the audience into fits of laughter with their occasional jokes. As the cast sat in a trench in France, waiting for the next round of fire, a soldier asked a fellow comrade, “Is that a picture of your girl?”
The lonely soldier, played by camper Sam Stoddard, replied, “No, my mom.”
The song repertoire included a wide range of crowd favorites, including Dionne Warwick’s I Say a Little Prayer for You, Bill Withers’s Ain’t No Sunshine, and Kanye West’s Lost in the World, for which camper Myles Brawn-Husband delivered an electrifying rap performance that sent the audience into a whirl of whoops and whistles.
Because the camp put on the annual play during the July session this year instead of August, it meant the whole cast had only nine days after the Fourth of July parade to put together their stage production. Camp Jabberwocky assistant director Kristen (Sully) Sullivan St. Amour said despite the tight timetable, it all worked. “Everyone buckled down at the last minute and focused on their parts, their costumes and the props. It came out amazing,” she said.
At the play’s end, everyone in the room chanted, “One more song! One more song!” and the actors obliged with Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Diana Ross and the Supremes.
When the applause eventually petered out enough for camp director Johanna (JoJo) Romero de Slavy to thank the audience and invite everyone to the main cabin for ice cream, a horde of friends, family and happy campers left the theatre room humming and smiling.