Hello, everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve written a purely ‘fun’ post on the blog, so here we go. As some may have guessed, I’m not much of an outdoorsy person (especially in the summer). That said, I do enjoy watching movies about summer camps from the comfort of my air-conditioned house during the ridiculously hot season. Recently, I got to thinking: which of these movies would make great stage musicals? Here’s my list!
1. Camp (2003)
This one feels like a no-brainer, right? For a sect of music and theatre kids who came of age in the early 21st century, Camp was essentially our Fame. Set at a summer teen theatre camp, the movie is full of performances from classic musicals like Promises, Promises, Follies, Company, and Dreamgirls (though perhaps best to avoid that particular performance). There are also a few original songs already built into the film’s soundtrack– including the fabulous 11 o’clock number “Here’s Where I Stand” by Michael Gore and Lynn Ahrens (performed by Tiffany Taylor). Fun Fact: Camp helped launch the careers of future Broadway/film stars Anna Kendrick and Robin de Jesús. It’s also notable for including a rare on-screen cameo by the king of musical theatre himself, Stephen Sondheim.
2. Sleepaway Camp (1983)
Similar to the above film, Sleepaway Camp is another indie flick that has developed a strong cult following over the years (though for very, very different reasons). Ask most people who have seen this summer camp slasher what they remember most about it and they’ll probably tell you the final scene featuring some of the most disturbing imagery of all time. But beyond that, the movie is just a good ‘ole camp-fest that is ripe to be adapted into a successful musical and/or musical parody. So watch out, Carrie: The Musical.
3. Troop Beverly Hills (1989)
With a shocking 8% Rotten Tomatoes score, Troop Beverly Hills has to be one of the most criminally underrated comedy films of all time. For those who haven’t seen this classic work of art that used to run practically non-stop on the Disney Channel, Shelley Long plays a Beverly Hills socialite who volunteers to lead her daughter’s girl scout troop. Although she appears to be a little in over her head at first, things ultimately work out for the best thanks to her plucky can-do attitude, wit, and keen fashion sense. Three words: IT’S COOKIE TIME!
4. Addams Family Values (1993)
Wait, but doesn’t this movie have the greatest Thanksgiving scene of all time (see below)? Yes! However, let’s not forget forget that a huge chunk of the movie is set at a summer camp– including said scene, oddly. Plus, I adore this film and could gush about it all day. There’s so much great macabre humor and satire from writer Paul Rudnick (who is partially responsible for other 90’s classics like Sister Act and The First Wive’s Club). You can probably catch this movie on the Freeform network during Halloween season, but why not watch it right now as well?
5. Heavyweights (1993)
I still watch this one pretty regularly, and I have to say, it holds up (and then some). This is the movie that gave us Ben Stiller’s best and most ridiculous acting role to date (and yes I’m including Derek Zoolander in that ranking). Overall, Heavyweights is such a fun camp flick with a great body-positive message that we could always use hearing more of today as a society. Bonus: Watch out for on-screen appearances by SNL’s Kenan Thompson and director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy, etc.).
6. Wet Hot American Summer (2001, 2015, 2017)
Arguably the smartest ‘dumb’ movie you’ll ever see, Wet Hot American Summer is packed with famous comedy actors like Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, David Hyde Pierce, Elizabeth Banks, and many others. It even ended up spawning two follow-up mini-series’ on Netflix (the first great, the second watchable). And because we’re talking stage musical potential, the franchise already gave us an Andrew Llloyd Webber/Starlight Express-inspired parody show titled Electro City: The Musical. Here’s one of the musical numbers from said show:
7. Happy Campers (2001)
Released the same year as Wet Hot American Summer, this little dark comedy from Daniel Waters– the mind behind Heathers— deserves far more recognition. Happy Campers has a lot of fun with unconventional narrative devices– such as allowing each camp counselor character to narrate their own individual segments in the film. The overall storyline gets a little bizarre, but this camp flick deserves to be more of a cult hit than it currently is. BONUS: Appearances by the late Brad Brenfro + a young Justin Long.
8. But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)
Another unconventional but essential choice. But I’m a Cheerleader is largely ‘camp’ satire, but this little LGBTQ+ comedy still manages to lampoon and destroy the entire concept of ‘conversion therapy’. It also features appearances by LGBTQ+ icons like Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, RuPaul, Cathy Moriarty, and others. Notably, a stage musical version of the film has been in the workshop phase for a while now. Here’s to hoping things continue to develop well!
9. The Final Girls (2015)
I appreciate the Friday the 13th franchise as much as the next horror movie fan, but if we’re talking stage musical potential, this recent semi-parody flick wins out in my mind. The film features a group of young adults who somehow end up getting trapped in a Friday the 13th-inspired slasher movie, appropriately titled Camp Bloodbath. While not exactly groundbreaking, The Final Girls finds a nice balance between slasher parody and [surprisingly] heartfelt family drama. The songs practically write themselves! Although, “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes is an essential inclusion no matter what.
10. Camp Nowhere (1994)
Yes, the movie where a bunch of pre-teens bribe Christopher Lloyd’s ex-teacher character to setup a fake camp for the summer. Admittedly, it’s been a beat since I’ve seen this one, so I couldn’t tell you if it holds up or not. I can say some of the best musicals have been made from obscure little cult films with plots about as absurd as this one’s.