‘Theater Camp’ Review: A Hilarious (If not Scarily Accurate) Depiction of Theater Geeks

Kevin Taft reviews the hilarious film, Theater Camp, which takes on the mockumentary style to create a pretty spot-on depiction of what actually takes place.
User Rating: 8

Biting and hilarious, Theater Camp is the Waiting for Guffman for this generation. And not everyone has to have gone to theater camp (or have been a theater nerd) to appreciate this truly hysterical new comedy.

Written by Nick Lieberman and co-stars Molly Gordon (The Bear) and Noah Galvan (The Real O’Neals), Theater Camp takes a mocumentary-style approach in telling the story of a theater camp whose headmistress Joan (Amy Sedaris) slips into a coma before summer session begins. With no choice, her son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) is set to take over, except he knows nothing about theater and has minimal business acumen. When the bank threatens foreclosure involving unpaid debt and the rich kids’ camp next door comes slinking around with an offer, Troy is put in a tough situation.

Meanwhile, the camp has just gone into full session with a gaggle of middle-school kids of all gender binaries being represented.

Best friends and eternal camp counselors Amos Klobuchar (Ben Platt) and Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon) seem to head the camp, with Gigi (Owen Thiele) as the costume queen, Clive (Nathan Lee Graham) as the dance instructor (who is always seated and eating), Glenn (Noah Galvan) as the overworked stage technician, and newcomer Janet (The Bear’s Ayo Edebiri) as a gal who just needs a job so she fakes her way into becoming the camp’s stage fighting instructor.

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The camp lasts approximately four weeks culminating in multiple shows, the biggest of which is Amos and Rebecca-Diane’s yearly original musical. Being uber-serious theater nerds, they fight for the best of the camp to be in their masterwork and set about creating a show based on their unconscious camp leader Joan.

Of course, with the bank breathing down clueless Troy’s neck, Amos and Rebecca-Diane running into creative and personal issues, and Glenn being pulled in too many directions, things aren’t going to go according to plan at the Adirond ACTS camp. And it’s a hoot!

There is an undeniable plethora of talent behind and in front of the camera here. Every actor is a master of improvisation and comic timing, and as a result, the film is endlessly entertaining. (Edebiri is fascinating to watch.)

It’s possible this might be the type of movie that will only really land with theater nerds, but judging from the packed opening night audience, everyone seemed to be having a blast. I haven’t doubled over laughing this much in a long, long time again, A lot of this falls on the actors and their reactions to the wackiness surrounding them. Even the kid actors are spot-on, exhibiting a natural ease behind the camera, not to mention undeniable actual stage talent.

Platt is great here with a character that is so out of touch and in his own theater-obsessed mind that he can’t get out of his own way. He does have his moments of clarity, and that makes for a few welcome tender moments. Especially with Gordon.

Gordon is terrific too, playing a gal who is down to earth about pursuing her dreams, but a little spacey, especially when she claims she can channel the souls of other people – living or dead.

The supporting cast is equally as adept at navigating the mockumentary style and creating memorable characters that are fun to watch. Even Tatro’s bro-y Troy finds depth while still being a big, dumb, clueless straight guy engulfed in a world he really shouldn’t be involved in.

From the cast to the clever script to the sight gags, to the final musical itself (complete with well-written and poorly-written musical numbers), Theater Camp is a blast from start to finish. And I’ll admit, I think I enjoyed this more than Waiting for Guffman. Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries are totally enjoyable, but there’s also a surreal quality to them that keeps us at a distance. This film rings scarily accurate and relatable, which makes it all the more comical.

Do yourself a favor and spend the summer at the greatest, most entertaining, (and probably most under-staffed) theater camp in the U.S. You’ll be glad you did.

Theater Camp is now playing in theaters.

Written by
Kevin is a long-time movie buff with a wide variety of tastes and fixations in the film world. He cried the moment Benji appeared onscreen in “Benji,” and it took him about four times to finally watch “The Exorcist” (at age 24) without passing out. “Star Wars: A New Hope” was the movie that changed everything and when his obsession with films and filmmaking began. A screenwriter himself (one long-ago horror script sale to New Line remains on a shelf), his first film "Two Tickets to Paradise" that he co-wrote premiered in June 2022 on Hallmark. He is currently working on another for the iconic brand.

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