Movie musicals are a tried and true film genre, often capable of winning major categories during Awards Season. But every so often a film about the people who make musicals happen is produced, to hilarious results. The latest of these is Theater Camp, which came from the minds of Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman, Noah Galvin, and Ben Platt. I finally got to see the movie now that it’s streaming on Hulu, and as a theater kid it really came for me where I live.
Theater Camp was originally released in theaters back in July, and will reach a wider audience now that it’s available with a Hulu subscription. The movie takes place at a sleepaway theater camp located in upstate New York, and the staff and young campers who attend and put on a variety of shows. In addition to playing head of drama Amos Klobuchar, Ben Platt also helped to write the movie based partly on his own experience in these camps. And the results are totally delightful and eerily accurate.
I was a high school theater kid myself, although I wasn’t lucky enough to attend a sleepaway camp like in the new comey. Those places like French Woods and Stagedoor manor were a bit out of my family’s budget, and I was practically green with envy over my friends who got to live, eat, sleep, and breathe theater every summer. I was at theater day camp, which was less intense but no less competitive.
The script for Theater Camp was written by Platt, Galvin, Lieberman, and Gordon– with the latter two also serving as its directors. Clearly it was written from a personal space, as all the ridiculous characters were pretty spot on recreations of people you meet in the theater. There’s the director who takes it all too seriously and treats the kids as adults, the body shaming costume designer, and the undervalued stage manager who is keeping the whole situation moving. And each character is given a hilarious set of quirks that make the cast of Theater Camp into a bonkers ensemble.
One of the main conflicts in Theater Camp comes when Molly Gordon’s Rebecca-Diane is revealed to have booked an actual performing job, singing on a cruise ship. The jealousy and resentment that Platt’s Amos feels is super relatable and has definitely ruined friendships. And the dynamic between these two codependent friends is also a tale as old as time.
But it’s in the minutia of actually performing that this new comedy really had me in hysterics. We see a camper belting out Wicked’s “Defying Gravity”, including his own set of hilariously fierce grace notes. And when a camper dares to use a tear stick to make themselves cry it’s basically World War 3. To this day I hear debate about folks who use fake tears during performances, and the “authentic” actors who take umbrage with this choice.
The last theater camp movie of this kind is the 2003 cult classic Camp, which features a young Anna Kendrick. But while that movie was more of a dramedy and had a touching story about the campers, this one is a full-fledged twisted comedy. And its accuracy is sure to get the attention of fellow former theater kids.
Theater Camp is streaming now. Be sure to check out the 2023 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience.