Set in a sleepaway stage-training program for shy kids and incorrigible natural hams, where attendees get intensive instruction from Broadway burnouts, Theater Camp is that rare parody that has viewers laughing from the opening scene till the credits roll. I’m talking about the 18-minute short film that Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman and Ben Platt uploaded to YouTube a month or so into the pandemic, earning a cult following among musical theater geeks and those who survived comparable drama camps in upstate New York.
Truth be told, this new Theater Camp probably contains just as many laughs, except that now, nearly all of them are packed into the final half-hour of a gets-old-fast feature in which co-directors Gordon and Lieberman hammer the same joke ad nauseam. For that to work, it helps to have a cast of Christopher Guest-level improv talents, as opposed to a mix of precocious young thespians and adult theater-camp alums tossing out absurdist in-jokes about character motivations, professional frustrations and the perils of being nonunion. The core ensemble features Platt and Gordon as co-dependent besties Amos and Rebecca-Diane, who met at a failed Juilliard audition and have been amateur creative collaborators ever since; Jimmy Tatro as Joan’s son Troy, a tone-deaf social-media jock woefully ill-prepared for running the camp in her absence; and Galvin as Glenn, an undervalued jack-of-all-trades just waiting for his time to shine.