The Reel Review
Drama unfolds as the summer season gets underway at a rundown upstate New York theater camp teetering on foreclosure. Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen) and Booksmart‘s Molly Gordon and Noah Galvin star in this mockumentary comedy based on the 2020 short film that they also wrote with Nick Lieberman, who along with Gordon, directs.
The writing quartet, all longtime friends, clearly intended for this Waiting for Guffman-styled mockumentary to be a hilarious love letter to all the theater nerd misfits and their melodramatic “the show must go on!” earnestness. Platt and Gordon are spot-on as the insufferably pretentious duo, taking their jobs as playwrights, teachers, camp counselors and music composers with utmost self-important, self-unaware seriousness. A cute audition-filled first act also features a terrific Amy Sedaris as Joan, the camp founder whose strobe light-induced seizure during a children’s theater production of “Bye Bye Birdie” leaves her in a coma, inspiring the camp’s original production of “Joan, Still.”
The concepts for the screenplay are often way funnier than the execution, particularly in its sluggishly paced midsection. There are a few hysterical laugh-out-loud moments when the precocious children start doing immersive dinner theater for the unsuspecting local Rotary Club, but recurring bits about an aspiring kid agent, a teacher with no experience, and a failure to launch class warfare with the rich kids’ camp next door are all misfires. Fortunately, the film gets its mojo back for a cute and charming finale, with Galvin and some insanely talented kids stealing the show while making total fun of it as they belt out some ridiculously awful lyrics.
• Theater Camp was shot at the now closed URJ Kutz camp in Warwick, New York in just 19 days.
• After years of friendship, Ben Platt and Noah Galvin starting dating during the COVID pandemic and got engaged in November 2022. Galvin succeeded Platt in the title role in the Broadway production of Dear Evan Hansen, which earned Platt a Tony Award.
• Molly Gordon appears as Claire in Season 2 of in The Bear.