#REVIEW: “THEATER CAMP”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
THEATER CAMP opens with archival footage of young kids performing on a stage when it hits you; those talented children grew up to be Ben Platt (Dear Evan Hansen), Molly Gordon ( “The Bear”) and Noah Galvin (“The Good Doctor”) who, alongside Nick Lieberman, all had a hand in directing, producing and writing this unabashed love letter to the musical theatre. As a musicals aficionado…OK…junkie, I had a ridiculous grin plastered on my face throughout its 93-minute running time and, too often, broke into uncontrolled laughter.
When the AdirondACTS summer theater camp founder Joan Rubinsky (Amy Sedaris in a delicious cameo) suffers a stroke due to the strobe light effects in a school production of “Bye Bye Birdie”, her less-than-bright, wannabe financial advisor son Troy (Jimmy Tatro, “Home Economics”) swoops in to take over but leaves the day-to-day operations in the hands of former campers but now returning annual counsellors Amos (Platt) and Rebecca-Diane (Gordon). Together, they audition, advise and inspire the most obscenely talented youngsters and tweens seen onscreen since “Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical”. They all give hypnotic performances.
Every year, the camp ends the season with an original musical. This time, they want to honour the camp’s founder with “Still, Joan”. While Amos and Rebecca-Diane struggle to create the music and lyrics (definitely unhummable!), Troy is hoping to stop the camp’s imminent foreclosure and takeover by the neighboring rich kid’s theatre camp just for the land alone.
If there’s such a thing as projectile laugher, THEATER CAMP offers it in spades, not only for the musical theatre nerds as me, but judging by the audience reactions at the advance screening I attended, even those who looked like they hoped it was a screening for the latest Marvel extravaganza, laughed loud and long. The Movie’s Final Act, the performance of “Still, Joan”, had me in stitches.
Platt and Gordon both give honest and true performances. Their musical vocal chops are impressive as always and they shine in their comedic and dramatic scenes. The standout, for me, was Noah Galvin. As Glenn, the somewhat shy stagehand slash tech whiz, when his deepest secret is finally revealed I mentally gave the actor a standing ovation.
My one and only quibble with THEATER CAMP is that I wish (Emmy-nominated for “The Bear”) Ayo Edebiri had more a presence in the Movie. Playing Janet, someone who blatantly lied during her interview for a job at the camp, watching her try to teach the youngsters the principals of mime or stage combat was comic gold. I also would have liked to see a little more from the “Minari” young sensation, Alan Kim, playing an agent. Seeing him in a suit and tie, maneuvering the telephone effortlessly while fighting for his “clients” was incredibly entertaining.
To those who will have issues securing a ticket for the recent slate of blockbusters at your local theatre, I urge you to see THEATER CAMP. Even those who don’t know that the song “Defying Gravity” is from the hit musical “Wicked”!!
Searchlight Pictures release THEATER CAMP July 20, 2023.