A lovingly crafted explosion of good will and hilarity, The Prom holds it place alongside the great musical comedies of the new millennium.
One significant difference between The Prom and the string of hits that came before it – unlike The Producers, Hairspray, Legally Blonde et al, The Prom is a wholly original work. The wickedly funny book is by Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin (the original Man in Chair!), with catchy songs by Matthew Skylar (music) and Beguelin (lyrics).
Undisputed current title holder of Broadway’s greatest director/choreographer, Casey Nicholaw works his magic yet again with The Prom. A perfectly solid piece of writing, the work is elevated to a higher plane thanks to Nicholaw’s eye for seamless integration of action and dance.
The premise for The Prom may sound perilous slender, but the concept is filled out with characterful details, and there is a surprise twist at the end of act one that delays the inevitable happy ending in a surprising way.
When a pair of raging narcissists receive a brutal, show-closing review for their work in Eleanor the musical, they decide to find a good deed that may bring them some much needed positive publicity. Scrolling past all the political tweets, they find a teen girl in Indiana who is not being allowed to attend her high school Prom with her girlfriend. With a couple of friends in tow, the four Broadway actors board a Godspell tour bus to Indiana to go and save young Emma the lesbian, whether she wants their help or not.
The Broadway angle allows for a slew of delicious insider jokes, delivered with great panache by the adult cast. Brooks Ashmanskas may be a poor man’s Nathan Lane, but he brings his own special verve to confidently camp actor Barry Glickman. Beth Leavel is hilarious as deludedly conceited two time Tony winner Dee Dee Allen, making the most of the chance to unleash her signature belt.
Christopher Sieber and Angie Schworer come along for the ride, adding to the Broadway sparkle that turns off the not so merry townsfolk of Edgewater, Indiana. For an extra handful of glitter, Josh Lamon plays the quartet’s producer/manager friend Sheldon Saperstein.
The frenetic humour is grounded by the actual stakes of the issue, which land with due seriousness thanks to the terrific lead performance of Caitlin Kinnunen as Emma.
Lovers of Broadway musical comedy will be sure to love The Prom. The show’s message of love and acceptance will have even more impact as the production makes its way around the US.
The Prom was reviewed 2pm Wednesday 9 January 2019 at Longacre Theatre, New York.
Photos: Deen van Meer