Theatre Camp review: A love letter to kids who loved Glee, The Tonys, and all things camp

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Sep 23, 2023 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 2 minutes

Like many tweens who got their kicks from Katy Perry mashups and live performances of Barbra Streisand classics, I was always mildly (to aggressively) annoyed at my parents for never sending me to theatre camp. While I possess neither talent nor the thick skin required to be an onstage performer, I also definitely believed that absolutely no one could quite steal a spotlight like me. Classic Aries, heh?

So, let’s just say I was beyond thrilled to see that a film was being made about theatre camp by theatre nerds. I mean, if there’s anyone qualified to create a mockumentary poking fun at the absurdities and campness of Broadway babies, it’s Ben Platt aka Mr Evan Hansen himself.

Theatre Camp is an ode to the kids who watched Neil Patrick Harris’ Tony Awards opening number on a loop. It’s a celebration of a place where praying to Cher is considered way more normal than praying to Jesus. And it’s a safe little haven for anyone who, like me, experienced grief for the first time when Glee stars Corey Monteith and Naya Rivera died.

Starring Molly Gordon, Ben Platt, Jimmy Tatro, Noah Galvin, and Ayo Edebiri, Theatre Camp follows a group of 20-something wannabe performers who are desperately trying to keep a summer camp open while simultaneously putting on a musical production of ‘Joan Still’—a show about the Camp’s founder who is in a coma for the duration of the film.

Let’s all take a moment to appreciate how insanely iconic it is to introduce Joan as a main character and then immediately remove her from the film by having her fall into a deep coma after suffering from a seizure during one of her campers’ performance of ‘Honestly Sincere’ from Bye Bye Birdie. I’d take this over The Godfather any day of the week. It’s a cinematic masterpiece.

Not only is this film legitimately really funny, but it has the perfect amount of self-deprecation. It captures the absurdities of musical theatre kids while also depicting the ways in which the arts bring people together in such a special way.

Gordon quite literally slays as head of music. The moment where she compares an eight-year-old’s use of a tear stick to Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal is maybe the most iconic thing I’ve seen all year. I think her exact words are: “Tear sticks are doping for actors.” Genius.

@gerriroy

“Mackenzie i’m not mad. i’m just furious” #benplatt #mollygordon #fyp #pitchperfect #parade #ayoedebiri

♬ original sound - ratpoop

Theatre Camp manages to be so dumb, in the cleverest way possible—something we see a lot when queer creatives are leading the charge. Don’t even get me started on how upset I am that Bottoms isn’t screening in the UK.

Also, a massive shout-out to Edebiri, who literally stole the show—and our hearts—with only four minutes of airtime. I know she kills it in The Bear, but I need more footage of her conducting a stage combat class as if it were an episode of The Kardashians, stat.

@gothbritta

slayed her 4 mins of screentime #janetwalch #theatercampmovie #theatercampedit #ayoedebiri #ayoedebiriedit #gothbritta #fyp #foryou

♬ original sound - kay 🇵🇸

I think so many of us can relate to the idea of wanting so badly to be a performer, but not being able to quite push ourselves to turn the dream into a reality. If I thought for a second that I’d be capable of taking over Lea Michele’s place as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, I’d be on the first flight to New York City. Sadly, my rendition of ‘My Man’ sounds a bit too much like Tinkerbell on crack so, don’t really see that in my future.

I might not ever reach that fantasy, but sitting in a cinema with a dozen other people who love musicals and the spirit of theatre as much as I do was a proper silly giggle.

My one complaint: where was the love story between Troy and Glenn…? I’m sorry, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who saw a connection there.

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