There was a definite sense of anticipation at last night’s UK preview screening of new musical film Theater Camp. Fortified with free drinks, cheesy photo op, t-shirt, popcorn and water, we settled down for an evening’s entertainment.
Following the short film Ben Platt and Molly Gordon created in 2020, Theater Camp now reaches full feature status and is an affectionate love letter to theatre kids presented in the style of a fake documentary.
As run-down summer camp AdirondACTS plans to welcome its new intake, a “Bye Bye Birdie accident” puts founder Joan (Amy Sedaris) into a coma, and her dumb YouTuber son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) in charge.
As the youngsters audition for this summer’s productions, teachers Amos, drama head (Platt) and Rebecca-Diane, music head (Gordon) work on their new original musical and their co-dependency.
Troy finds the finances problematic, while swish and rich competing camp Lakeside slowly moves in to push their enemy off the map. There’s your conflict, but it is nothing new – more fun is from watching the smart theatre kids ignore their new leader.
This is a very funny film, and the young cast can belt out numbers with the best of them. It’s squarely pitched at theatre nerds and musical obsessives, with quietly joshing lyrics and over the top teaching techniques.
Don’t take this too seriously – it drops the mockumentary structure quite quickly, and the character of new teacher Janet (Ayo Edebiri) is a little underwritten – and you’ll have an enjoyable hour and a half.
And that’s without mentioning tech guy Glenn (Noah Galvin) who displays quite a secret by the end. What a star turn! Theater Camp celebrates the square pegs in round holes, the eccentrics, and those who find a space to belong.
Call out to the young performers in the cast: Alan S Kim (budding agent); Luke Islam; Jonathan Lenael; Kyndra Sanchez (method actor); Donovan Colan; Alexander Bello; and chirpy Bailee Bonick.
Written by Platt, Galvin, Gordon, and co-director (with Gordon) Nick Lieberman, this boasts a knowing score by James McAlister and Mark Sonnenblick which contains references to all your stage favourites.
I’m giving this one **** stars.
You can watch in UK cinemas from the 25 Aug – official film site here and check your local cinema chain for ticket bookings.