Theater Camp Review

Saturday 26 August 2023

Plot: The eccentric staff of a rundown theatre camp in upstate New York must band together with the beloved founder's bro-y son to keep the camp afloat.

Film: Theater Camp

Directors: Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman

Writers: Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon, Nick Lieverman

Starring: Ben Platt, Molly Gordon, Noah Galvin

I want to preface my thoughts by saying I'm so mad that this film was stylised as 'Theatre Camp' for a British audience as it's hurt me greatly to spell it wrong so many times while writing this review; a small gripe but the show must go on!

Theater Camp is a mockumentary style film about AdirondACTS, a summer camp for performers, that has fallen on hard times. When the owner of the camp, Joan (Amy Sedaris), is hospitalised in a coma, it’s up to her son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) to save AdirondACTS before it is taken over by a rival campsite. Blissfully unaware of the imminent foreclosure, the staff and students go about their usual business of putting on their performances, ready for their end of summer showcase.

The staff and student cast within a cast is made up of an eclectic and diverse band of misfits, as should be the case with any film surrounding musical theatre. The main staff is made up of former alumni Amos (Ben Platt) and Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon), who every year write their own original production for the students to perform, quiet and keeps-to-himself tech designer Glen (Noah Galvin), wistful-about-the-past dance teacher Clive (Nathan Lee Graham) and blunt and honest head of wardrobe Gigi (Owen Thiele). Each character felt like an authentic caricature of the sort of people you would meet in the theatre industry, this will no doubt be a fun game of who’s who for any theatre kid watching.

Jimmy Tatro’s role of ‘influencer-bro’ who definitely doesn’t do musicals, was so well done that by the end of the film I forgot I hated him to begin with. Troy shows up and, in a room, full of theatre students, he’s the cringe one. I don’t think his name matching a certain High School Musical characters in a coincidence. Like Zac Efron, Troy mends his jock ways and begins to immerse himself in the world of musical theatre, becoming a much better person for it. If only everyone could take that journey. 

My only real criticism is regarding Ben Platt’s character of the reluctant thespian-turned-teacher, waiting for the right time to get back into performing. There isn’t really explanation as to why his character is so afraid of putting himself out there, aside from a failed audition to Julliard. Amos seems more content as a writer/director, though this isn’t explicitly said either, just that he isn’t ready for performing while Rebecca is ready and is only being held back by Amos, I think some more exploration of his character away from his friend was needed. We also don’t get to hear him sing aside from a few comical bars, and no reference to Dear Evan Hansen despite having two former Evan’s in the cast… Madness. 

The final performance of Amos and Rebecca’s show ‘Still, Joan’ is so perfect that I can guarantee you’re going to wish there was a full two-hour version of it. In particular the finale song ‘Camp Isn’t Home’, the writing of which is one of my favourite scenes, is the perfect blend of Glee club and heartfelt. It’s up to 50,000 plays on Spotify and only about 5% of those are me. 

This film is a love letter to theatre kids everywhere and if that sounds like you then I promise you’ll leave the cinema with a smile on your face. It’s sharp and funny and yes, a little cringey but as a theatre kid myself, I embrace that it’s who we are and Theater Camp doesn’t pull its punches but after all, if we can’t make fun of ourselves, other people will do it for us.

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