Camp is a 2003 American musical comedy-drama film, written and directed by Todd Graff, about an upstate New York performing arts summer camp. The film is based on Graff's own experiences at a similar camp called Stagedoor Manor, where many scenes of the movie were filmed.
The film centers on the experiences of several teenagers at Camp Ovation, a summer theatre camp. The campers are a mishmash of youngsters from different backgrounds, dealing with different issues, but all feel most comfortable while performing. School is out, and the campers reunite as they prepare to board the buses to Camp Ovation. Shy, self-conscious Ellen Lucas happily greets her friends, recovering from an embarrassing situation where she desperately tried to land a prom date, and ended up asking her brother. Nerdy Fritzi Wagner attempts to befriend icy diva Jill Simmons, but ends up toting her luggage instead. Returning camper Jenna Malloran laments that her parents forced her to have her jaw wired shut in order to lose weight. Upon arrival to Camp Ovation, the kids settle in. Ellen converses with her friend Michael Flores, a gay teenager who was violently beaten by his classmates after showing up to his junior prom in drag. The campers are struck dumb with the arrival of Vlad Baumann, a handsome new camper who is, as a staff member marvels, "an honest-to-god straight boy."
Camp Ovation puts on a new play or musical every two weeks. Vlad and Ellen bond after rehearsal one day and flirt a bit. However, soon afterward, Vlad is seduced by the conceited Jill, who later makes cruel cracks at Ellen for her weight and her inexperience with boys. Feeling guilty, Vlad comforts Ellen and the two begin to inch toward a relationship. The camp enlists a guest counselor for the summer: composer Bert Hanley, whose play "The Children's Crusade" was a one-hit wonder many years earlier. Frustrated with his lack of recent success, he is now a grumpy alcoholic and shows up two days late at Camp Ovation. He constantly drinks on the camp grounds and is very irritated by Vlad, who idolizes him and attempts to strike up conversation.
Jill shares a cabin with Fritzi, who is still catering to her every whim. However, after Fritzi is caught washing Jill's underwear, Jill expresses her disgust with Fritzi and kicks her out of the cabin. The usually meek Fritzi becomes filled with borderline psychotic rage, and sabotages Jill's next performance in "Company" by putting Woolite in her Snapple. As Jill vomits during her performance of "The Ladies Who Lunch," Fritzi shows up in costume and takes her place mid-song. She reveals herself to be a talented and passionate actress.
Michael is rooming with Vlad, on whom he has developed a crush. Vlad convinces Michael to invite his parents to his next play, although his father is incredibly unsupportive of his homosexuality. Though his mother tells him they will come, Michael notices mid-performance that they did not. Crushed, he flees the stage. He is found later by Vlad, who explains that he too has his share of problems. Though Vlad is a seemingly normal, all-American teenager, he reveals to Michael that he suffers from an acute type of OCD, for which he is medicated.
Hanley is angered after hearing Vlad play one of his songs, and begins to tell the campers that theater will only make them bitter and lonely, much like himself. Vlad follows a drunken Hanley back to his room and berates him for his cruel speech. After Hanley throws up and passes out, Vlad finds a trove of music that Hanley has written over the years but not released. During a rehearsal for the camp's benefit performance, Vlad and the campers sing "Century Plant", one of Hanley's songs. Hanley's heart is lifted and his disposition changes. Shortly before the benefit, Michael sleeps with Dee, Ellen's roommate, out of frustration about Vlad. When Vlad hears of this, he immediately asks Dee if it was true. Vlad and Dee end up making out on Dee's bed, and Ellen walks in on them. She runs off, hurt, and refuses to talk to Vlad.
The night of the benefit concert arrives, and the campers are starstruck as famed composer Stephen Sondheim is in attendance. The dressing room atmosphere is tense, and gets even more awkward when Vlad's girlfriend Julie shows up to see him. Meanwhile, in another act of revenge, Fritzi sabotages Jill's makeup, causing her to break out in boils. Jill attacks her, injuring her, and both are unfit to go onstage. To replace her, Bert cuts the wires on Jenna's mouth, allowing her to sing a powerful song directed to her parents in the audience, telling them to accept her as she is.
The benefit is a hit, but Vlad, Michael, and Ellen are still arguing. Vlad and Michael meet up by the lake, where Vlad strips down to gain Michael's attention. After being set straight by Michael, Vlad admits that he is an "attention junkie", and attempts to please everyone in order to gain their good favor. He apologizes to Michael for leading him on. Ellen arrives, and Vlad explains that he still cares about her, and that his girlfriend Julie had just broken up with him. After another apology, Ellen forgives him, and the three go swimming.
During the end credits, the entire cast does an elaborate rendition of Todd Rundgren's "Want of a Nail".