The Show Must Go On is the mantra of this Disney-made comedy, which has The Bear actor Molly Gordon as its writer, co-director, and star. She plays Rebecca-Dianne, an acting coach and former student of a surreal New York theatre camp. When their founder Joan (Amy Sedaris) falls into a coma, it’s up to her to bring together the students and faculty to make a show that will save the institution.
The bones of the plot are nothing new, briskly dancing through a one show-to-save-the-school narrative that never strays from the tropes. What Theatre camp does exceptionally well, however, is capture the melodrama of theatre education. Tutors of niche disciplines rattle off quirky motivational phrases, and directors project their own failings onto mortified students. The adults have passive aggressive feuds with bemused tweens, and the shows are of a questionable quality.
To say that this is a satire would be misleading, however, as there’s clearly a lot of love for this world. It may be lost on non-thespians, or those unfamiliar with the American camp tradition but the laughs come in the right places, and with a healthy dose of affection. Gordon is delightfully neurotic as Rebecca-Dianne, the lead trying to manage both the circumstances and her own issues.
She’s ably assisted by Ben Platt as colleague Amos, a hilariously stern believer in the camp. There’s an authenticity to his performance, given Platt is a Broadway legend, and thankfully there’s none of the creepiness that haunted his appearance in 2021’s Dear Evan Hansen. Jimmy Tatro may earn some audience members’ sympathy as Troy, the camp owner’s jock son who doesn’t really get the world he may be inheriting.
A slight film with a big heart, Theatre Camp is best enjoyed by those who recite showtunes from memory. However, even neutrals will get to the credits with some admiration.