Places, everyone! The curtain goes up on the funniest movie you’ll see this summer – the Sundance Film Festival sensation theater camp. Walk through the summer camp comedy of hot and humid american summer with the hilarity of the musical theater of Waiting for Guffman and you’ll get the overall vibe that the film’s four-person creative team of Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon, Nick Lieberman and Ben Platt are looking for.
“Our film has flavors of both, but it probably lives more in the world of Guffman“, Platt told Yahoo Entertainment. “We wanted to capture all the humor and the story being a fly on the wall and then head into a big performance piece in the finale.” (These interviews were done before the SAG-AFTRA strike.)
This great performance piece marks the culmination of the audience’s all-too-brief time at AdirondACTS, a fictional camp for theater kids tucked away in the Catskills. Platt and Gordon play the pair of codependent counselors responsible for writing and directing the camp’s annual original musical. The duo’s latest potential masterpiece is Joan again – an account of the life and times of AdirondACTS founder Joan Rubinsky (Amy Sedaris), who spends her summer in the hospital after suffering a stroke. In Joan’s absence, her aspiring internet influencer son, Troy (Jimmy Tatro), has taken over the camp in just weeks to save it from financial ruin…a tall order for someone whose Self-proclaimed “EnTROYpreneurship” brand has so far racked up more losses than wins.
Watch our interview with theater camp co-writer and star, Ben Platt
just like Guffman – Or hot and humid american summer Besides – theater camp hits the audience in funny bone scene after scene. But those laughs reach a thunderous crescendo when Joan again has its one-night premiere. It’s an instant home-produced classic, with songs that would Red, white and Blaine creator, Corky St. Clair, bites his pillow longingly. “I remember watching Guffman when I was a kid and wanted to see this whole musical,” confesses Lieberman – who directed the film with Gordon. “You leave the film wanting more, and we wanted to give the audience a similar feeling.”
Moviegoers won’t be the only ones coming Joan again costs. Tatro says he didn’t know exactly what the filmmakers had in store until he sat down with the rest of the live audience who would watch the production for the cameras. “None of that was in the script that I read,” said the american vandal reveals the scene stealer. “It just said, ‘The kids are doing a performance of Joan again.’ The whole time I was sitting there watching this amazing musical they wrote for the kids to play and at the end I was like, ‘Am I crying right now?'”
“I think the movie would have worked even if the musical wasn’t so good,” Tatro adds. “But the fact that it’s really great is amazing. I’ve had the songs stuck in my head for weeks!”
In order to alleviate the symptoms of “earworm,” Lieberman says an accompanying soundtrack is forthcoming that will contain full versions of the songs heard in the film. “There is no fuller filmed version of what is seen in the film,” he explains. “But the songs on the soundtrack are written as full musical numbers with a lot more pieces.”
“There is a lot more on the soundtrack,” Platt teases, calling out “Wall Street Noise” as one of his favorites. Joan again Numbers. “We loved the idea of imagining Joan’s life and taking liberties with lies and truths. And then we parodied as many real Broadway shows as we could, from fiddler on the roof For Resolutely modern Millie. The version that’s in the movie captures that balls-on-the-wall feeling where it’s your only chance to perform every song and you only have four or five takes to do it. It’s that fleeting camp spectacle quality where you spend all your time preparing something and then in the blink of an eye, it’s done.”
Before becoming Broadway’s seasoned star of Tony-winning shows like Dear Evan Hansen And ParadePlatt was one of the bright-eyed, foot-tapping theater kids depicted in theater camp. And he was always part of the pre-hamilton generation where being a drama nerd wasn’t cool. “It’s a dream come true,” he says of how the musical theater crowd miraculously became the crowd. “Our goal with this film was to make a film that lives in this cooler alternative comedy space. It’s still pretty cheesy, but ultimately it’s a love letter to the [theater] community and a thank you to all the teachers we had.
And it takes a nerd to make fun of nerds. Platt says the makers of theater camp felt emboldened to spare no blows when it came to their portrayal of the theater’s diva excesses. “It’s not too far,” he laughs. “We knew the message was in the right place and we were going to tell the story we wanted to tell, so we felt we could be as brutal as we wanted.”
Plus, Platt saw right away that the current generation of theater kids are okay with being the butt of jokes. “There’s a lot more confidence and comfort in their own skin, especially some of our gay campers,” he notes. “There’s a lot of self-acceptance earlier and it’s really exciting to see. I definitely didn’t feel like I had as much control over myself as some of those kids did! That’s where where we are and where we need to continue to be as a community.”
theater camp playing in theaters now