Theater Camp - Film Review

The young ensemble delivers a performance that is nothing short of remarkable"

Searchlight Pictures presents a cinematic gem that will hit a chord with theatre kids young and old. This comedic masterpiece hits a note that is almost too authentic, eliciting laughter even from the dance dads in the audience. I had the privilege of attending the UK Special Screening, where the theatre was brimming with laughter from both the obvious and subtle references. Among the unmistakable nods were the 'Fame'-inspired placards and a dash of 'The Teacher’s Argument.'

The narrative unfolds within a struggling theatre camp grappling with financial woes. As is customary, a team of beloved tutors engage the eager students. Ben Platt, handling the theatre aspect, and Molly Gordon, imaginatively handling music, have a great relationship and sincere characters. Platt's portrayal of a gay character is commendably genuine and heartfelt right from the onset. Directors Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman's vision brilliantly comes to life on screen. While the cast effortlessly contributes their share of camp moments, this movie strikes a refreshing balance.

Speaking of camp, the characters of dance and costume instructors, portrayed by Nathan Lee Graham and Owen Thiele, were fabulous. My only critique is that these characters deserved more screen time, considering the compelling performances they delivered.

That said, the film's pacing is expertly calibrated. A more in-depth exploration of characters could have potentially hindered the storyline's momentum. Perhaps there's room for their development in a sequel? A standout tutor is embodied by Noah Galvin, who embodies a technician with a yearning to perform. Galvin's character navigates various delightful and frenetic scenes, including an unforgettable hillside roll and a poignant end-of-movie montage.

Jimmy Taro introduces an outsider's (non theatre) perspective, underscoring the narrative as he grapples with inadequate attempts to secure finances. His character and the relationships he forges give a touch of realism. It's noteworthy that the screenplay is a collaboration between Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon, and Nick Lieberman – two of whom have been previously mentioned. The writers seamlessly infuse moments of authenticity and candid expressions that most people only wish they could articulate.

The young ensemble delivers a performance that is nothing short of remarkable. Each actor impeccably portrays their character, with special recognition due to Bailee Bonick's phenomenal rendition of Mackenzie.

With a lot of criticism surrounding modern cinema's attempts at inclusivity, this film stands out for its effortlessly authentic casting choices and the sheer talent of its actors. Not a single change to the line-up should be considered.

To see this film with someone less inclined toward theatre would be fascinating!

This film was reviewed at the Picturehouse Central in London on the 15th August 2023.  Theater Camp heads into cinemas from the 25th August 2023

Review written by Valentine Gale-Sides

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Photo credit: Disney

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