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Theater Camp


‘…, a well-observed look at the vanity and hubris of teachers attempting to put on a show at an upstate New York residential summer-school; it’s like Fame, or Glee, but much funnier…’

Comedy is a neglected art-form these days; those of us who remember what it was like to be in a packed auditorium rocking with laughter on a Saturday night will find that viewing a tweet of someone falling in mud with the words “Ha Ha’ captioned over their indignity doesn’t quite hit the same spot. Generating cruel laughs is the quickest of fixes for social media online; creating a funny feature length movie for the ages is a far trickier business, so kudos to directors Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman, who expanded their own short film into Theater Camp, a well-observed look at the vanity and hubris of teachers attempting to put on a show at an upstate New York residential summer-school; it’s like Fame, or Glee, but much funnier.

‘It’s either this or do a straight play.’ ‘So, if there’s straight plays, what’s a gay play, then?’ ‘…a musical?’ is one of the opening snippets of dialogue here that set exactly the right WASPish tone. Fresh from hitting the heights in this summer’s big hit The Bear, Molly Gordon plays Rebecca-Diane (surely a Cheers reference), a staff-member who harboured an unrequited childhood crush on Amos (Ben Platt), who turned out to be gay, much to her chagrin. Nevertheless, Amos and Rebecca-Diane have been organising the annual camp show in the remote Adirondacks for decades. When co-founder and director Joan Rubinsky (Amy Sedaris) falls into a coma during an intense performance of Bye Bye Birdie, her nepo-son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) steps into the gap with mixed results. Wth the highly monetised rivals at Camp Lakeside ready to step in to take advantage of a potential foreclosure, could fake-it-till-you-make it instructor Janet Walsh (Ayo Edeberi, also from The Bear) make the difference between a hit show and a closed camp?

Richard Nixon said that student politics were vicious because the stakes are so small; he might as well have been talking about out-of-town amateur musical theatre, because Theater Camp does a great job of lampooning the ridiculous self-importance of Amos and Rebecca-Diane, while still managing to pull off an upbeat, feel-good ending that you’d expect from a ‘let’s put on a show’ story. Theater Camp should work for Gilmore Girls fans, and Mrs Maisel devotees, and also for those who relished Christopher Guest’s classic Waiting for Guffman, but would like to see it updated to 2023. ‘The Go-Pro loves you’ and ‘We’re supposed to be manifesting’ are the kind of witty lines that provide a modern slant on traditional backstage rivalries; references to a prospective course on ‘Chekhov for Children of Divorce’ or a cruise ship’s ‘Cole Porter on the Waves’ show dismissed as ‘non-narrative’ catch an acerbic feel.

With Will Ferrell amongst the producers, the slight, nuanced laughs of Theater Camp may have a limited appeal at the cinema, but this should easily pick up a cult following on streaming; it’s played in a pitch perfect style by an ensemble cast, and there’s some choice musical drops including Paul Simon’s The Obvious Child, plus an amusing bit from Alan Kim from Minari as a precocious agent (he’s eleven). ‘I’m not angry…I’m furious!’ is the kind of rant you can expect at this camp show goes south; self-selecting viewers are likely to be more than satisfied by this agreeably lightweight, personal account of the trials and tribulations of an over-ambitious creative endeavour.


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  1. I watched the full run of Cheers (not when it came out obviously, but later), and I still wouldn’t have gotten that Rebeccah-Diane thing. Why did the producers think anyone else (besides you I mean) would?

    • I’m about five episodes away from completing the entire 10 series, 24 episodes per series run of Cheers, and I feel I’ve been living in that bar for a decade. I guess it’s an in joke for the cognis-yeti like ourselves?

            • I’ll submit this into evidence, if there’s no other business, the court rises for elevenses and snapples.

                    • Well, it comes in a glass bottle and has a metal lid that snaps on and off. According to their website, ‘In the USA, Snapple is the Number One Premium Juice and Iced Tea Brand.’ So that that, Liptons!

                    • Absolutely, the Snapple of my eye.

                      Have you tried this Primo drink that’s in all the shops here?

                    • Bwhahahahaaha. NOW I am the Master and you are the apprentice.
                      ~insert training montage of me cutting a battleship into pieces with a bottle of snapple~

                      Darth Snapplemerdurous has arisen!

                      Tell me more about this Primo drink. My curiosity is piqued…

                    • Oh for goodness sake.
                      I smell bureaucrats and laws putting caffeine drinks into the same category as tobacco and alcohol.

                      I wonder what the canadian maximum caffeine level is anyway. You’d think THAT would have taken care of things….

                    • Given by Alex’s ravings, I assumed there was no law against 100 percent caffeinated drinks…

                    • It’s all about milligrams of caffeine. The rockstars I drink have 160mg. Those white gummy bear Reigns I occasionally mention have 300. Most “research” says 500mg is the top limit people should have, then you get into side effects.
                      As for kids, yeah, they shouldn’t be drinking that stuff. Just like htey shouldn’t be drinking mt dew or eating those wicked hot chips. But kids are stupid. Come on parents, do your job….

                    • From reading your blog and your comments, it looks to me as if the side effects on grown adults are fairly significant. Yet how can we stop kids wanting to be like you?

                    • Significant? Oh, you have to realize that I’m not a baseline human any more. I don’t drink alcohol, do weird drugs or eat meats that carry invasive parasites. So when I get hit with caffeine, it hits me harder. Most people would probably shrug and try chugging another. And then have a heart attack when their heart explodes from 900mg of caff.

                      As for kids, I’m really split on this. On one hand, I hate and despise governmental control. It never works out well and usually causes more problems than it solves. But on the other hand, I can understand putting caffeine onto a controlled substance list. It has way more affect on us than we want to admit. I just don’t see it happening though, with coffee shops here in the US being one every 2 blocks and 10 every one block in big cities.

                    • I noted that you were some kind of bio-tech cyborg some time ago. Personally, I’m for almost anything the government is against, so that used to be Jolt cola, if you remember that. But I’m working on reducing blood pressure after all the funeral agony, so not much caffeine on my schedule for now. I certainly didn’t realise how much damage four of five cups of coffee a day were doing to me, and I can’t imagine kids paying much heed to official advice…

                    • Yeah, that was back in my rebellious phase. I’ve since moved on and become a fully functioning adult.

                      At some point I’ll have to give up caffeine completely, but today is not that day!

                      Besides the caff, I can’t imagine the coffee itself is helping your stomach any. A cousin of mine got an ulcer from drinking a thermos of the stuff every day.

                    • I inject 600gs of Nescafé into my eyeballs just to get the correct energy level to read Alex’s book reviews.

                    • I inject a mix, and then I’m so confused I don’t actually the review.

                    • By not reading my own reviews, I stay fresh to act when Alex points out the typos.

  2. Saw the trailer for this at the Barbie movie. Both my friend and I agreed we’d come back to see it on the big screen.

    So I was in before you even said the magic words: “Gilmore Girls fans, and Mrs Maisel devotees…”

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