THIS REVIEW WAS WRITTEN PRIOR TO THE SAG-AFTRA STRIKE
Growing up with an intense love of the arts, I would have given anything to be a part of a theater camp. Could you imagine? All summer long singing and dancing and being my best geeky self with others who share a similar love of stage. Well, after screening many deeply dark and borderline depressing flicks at the festival, I felt the need to lighten it up and Theater Camp filled the prescription.
As summer rolls around again, kids are gathering from all over to attend AdirondACTS, a scrappy theater camp in upstate New York that’s a haven for budding performers. After its indomitable founder Joan (Amy Sedaris) falls into a coma, her clueless “crypto-bro” son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) is tasked with keeping the thespian paradise running. With financial ruin looming, Troy must join forces with Amos (Ben Platt), Rebecca-Diane (Molly Gordon), and their band of eccentric teachers to come up with a solution before the curtain rises on opening night.
In their first-time feature directorial duo Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman authentically and hilariously celebrate the brilliant and slightly unhinged educators/magical spaces that allow kids to be themselves and find their confidence, nailing the details after experiencing decades of camp life. With a winning comedic ensemble cast and boundless creativity, Theater Camp wears its cult-following potential squarely on its sequined shoulders, gifting us with instantly quotable lines and zany, lovable characters in the kind of hilarious mockumentary that deserves rapturous applause. It’s like witnessing a musical theater version of Christopher Guest’s cult classic “Waiting for Guffman.”
With Guest’s film, Blaine, Missouri is approaching its sesquicentennial celebrating with a musical revue called “Red, White and Blaine,” in hopes the show will be his ticket back to Broadway, Corky St. Clair enlists a group of locals. After he reveals that theater agent Mort Guffman will attend the opening, things really kick into high gear. Well, with Theater Camp, finds thespians struggling to get their show off ground, which makes for the most hysterical hijinks ever! I laughed, cried and talked back to the screen more times than I care to admit – and let me just say I was not the only one. The best moment for me is when they setup a camera in Joan’s hospital room so that she can witness “Still Joan” for herself – pure comedy!!!!
Bernie Telsey should get an award just for the casting of these kids who were amazing and giving us “Glee” in summer camp! Each one of them are amazingly gifted beyond their years and it was thrilling to watch them recreate a number live after the premiere at Sundance. One kid during the Q&A, enthusiastically shared the manner in which this summer camp is portrayed is absolutely real from his humble Jewish point of view (his words – not mine).
Theater Camp is fluffy, fun and anyone who has ever been in a summer camp, theatre workshop or rehearsal for a show will be totally enthralled while being taken on a nostalgic trip that fills your soul and makes the spirit soar.