An Filmmaker Reviews the American Girl Live Musical… Three Years Later
Before I started watching the recording of American Girl Live on YouTube, I figured I’d review it again. When I saw it in person back in 2019, I was still using Google Docs to write screenplays, which I soon learned was a big no-no for professionals. Rebelle was only conceptualized 2 weeks before my AG Live show, and I only started the script 8 days before Show Day. I haven’t even directed real people at that point! So I was curious… with all her newfound film experience, would 17-year-old Sydney love AG Live as much as 14-year-old Sydney did?
The answer: yes!
There were a few of you on my last post that didn’t know American Girl Live even existed, so I’ll give you all a quick rundown before the review. American Girl Live was a touring musical based on an original story that incorporated 6 different American Girl characters: Rebecca Rubin, Nanea Mitchell, Maryellen Larkin, Melody Ellison, Julie Albright, and Luciana Vega. It toured America between December 2018 and May 2019, and I saw it in person at the McGlohon Theater in Charlotte, NC on March 9, 2019.
The story was about five campers and their camp counselor at Camp American Girl, a sleepaway summer camp inspired by American Girl dolls. Each camper has her own doll, who comes to life when her owner least expects it and inspires her owner to overcome a challenge, from being the new girl at camp to overcoming her worst fear. Act 1 was about the girls striving to earn “Girl Power Prizes” so they can all earn a trip to the Starry Night Campsite at the end of the week, and Act 2 was about the challenges they faced while attempting to get to the campsite. You can either watch the entire musical on YouTube or click here to read my summary from 2019.
Now, onto the review!
On paper, the basic plot of girls having adventures at camp is execution-dependent, where if the writer or director didn't execute it properly, it would have messed up the entire show. But they made sure that you got invested in the plot, that each scene was entertaining, and also found a way to add positive messages that are relevant for the elementary school-age girls this show was targeted to organically without making it seem preachy. I also like the imaginative and wholesome approach to integrating the American Girl dolls and stories into the plot by having the dolls come to life and encouraging the girls to overcome their challenges.
The characters were all well-written, with their own personality and set of challenges. They all were relatable, and the actresses who portrayed them all did a really good job with their roles! Each actress mainly played two roles- one camper and one doll- but they distinguished both roles perfectly. If I didn't know that each actress had 2 parts, I probably wouldn't have been able to tell!
The direction was awesome. As an aspiring director, I know how hard it can be to direct both the actors and the blocking, but both were really good! The actresses all had a positive energy about them that was perfect for the age group yet authentic, and I could tell that was probably the direction. As for the blocking, it was genius during the parts where one camper snuck offstage so she could change into her doll character and when the camper came back after their doll scene. It all seemed to be effortless, but I'm sure it took a lot of work to get right!
The people that American Girl Live wouldn't have survived without, however, are the costume change crew for the camper to doll transitions and the set designers and builders who made creative and practical sets that can be easily turned around and transformed into a new scene, as well as the crew that changed the scenes around. They made the fast pace of the show work perfectly, and I'm so glad they took their jobs seriously.
All the songs were awesome, and I liked how the historical character's songs each took inspiration from the music of the era they came from. My favorite song was Blast Off, Luciana's song, just because that scene was so cool and imaginative, but they're all really good songs! I also really liked Nanea's song, Rainy Day Hula.
Overall, I probably liked the show more as a 17-year-old than I did as a 14-year-old, and my 14-year-old self loved it enough to give it 100 stars. Getting more in-depth with my filmmaking dreams made me have a better appreciation of how hard the cast and crew worked to make this show amazing, and it was awesome!
One more thing on a personal note: in March 2019, I was shy and a bit scared of what other people thought about me. I was still in the closet and too scared to tell anyone I was working on a real movie, much less tell them it featured a romantic relationship between two girls. I was even too scared to tell anyone about the webseries I was working on at the time! I was scared that no one would like me, and worried a bit too much about what others thought about me.
Over the last three years, I have had moments where people thought I wasn't good enough or judged me because I'm a lesbian or thought that my work wasn't worthy of making it to the big screen. But I realized that it doesn't matter what other people think... as long as I'm being myself and giving my work my all, I can achieve my dreams and prove everyone wrong.
That day in March 2019, I decided to just let go and be myself for the day, and then the next day I'd get back to work on my movie in secret. With the outlook of embracing my inner AG fangirl, I had one of the happiest nights of my life. But now that I've had that outlook permanently, I've been much happier: just as happy as I was that night in March 2019 at American Girl Live.