January 30, 2023

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‘Theatre Camp’ received a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival premiere

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In a reception that’s sure to warm the hearts of theater kids, “Theatre Camp,” a goofy mockumentary about thespians at heart, earned a hearty ovation at the Sundance Film Festival.

Real-life best friends Ben Platt, Molly Gordon and Noah Galvin star in “Theatre Camp,” an affectionate cartoon set at an overnight camp in upstate New York. The movie, which premiered Saturday afternoon at the Eccles Theater in Park City, proved an audience pleaser, generating boisterous laughter and generous applause throughout the screening. After the credits rolled, the child stars of “Theatre Camp” took the stage to perform a mesmerizing medley of songs — including the zany anthem “Woman Don’t Read” from the movie musical “Joan.” still

Taking inspiration from Christopher Guest-style observational comedy, “Theater Camp” begins with AdirondACTS founder Joan (Amy Sedaris) falling into a coma. (The film’s musical serves as a tribute to their unconscious leader.) In his absence, his crypto brother son Troy (Jimmy Tatro) and some kooky mentors (including Gordon, Platt, Galvin and “The Bear” star Ayo Edebiri) summer the financially troubled theater. Heaven remains afloat. The festival-selling film was co-directed by Gordon and Nick Lieberman and co-written by the foursome.

The audience, probably filled with musical theater nerds, was naturally receptive to the recognizable satire and experience depicted in “Theater Camp.” Alan S. Kim, the breakout star of “Minari,” which premiered at Sundance in 2020, got the film’s loudest laughs for his adorable, scene-stealing role as the pint-sized agent.

Before the screening, Lieberman called the film a “labor of love” and joked that the cast “just wants to know what the movie is about… They don’t know,” since many scenes were improvised. “They’ll find out in a moment,” he added.

In a post-screening (and post-performance) Q&A, Gordon offered a little insight into the origins of “Theatre Camp.”

“It literally came out of wanting to do something with our friends. “I met Ben when I was three,” Gordon said tearfully. “I fell in love with him and he was very gay. He didn’t like me.” He added, “We always wanted to do something as a collective.”

Of course, they are happy that the film resonated with the audience. But ultimately, the four friends wanted to create an art that celebrates anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.

“Thank you for being here,” Gordon said. “We didn’t think anyone would show up.”

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