Associate New York Critic
If anyone is looking for a fun night out, grab your significant other, or for that matter just pick yourself up, get dressed and go to “The Prom” where everyone is welcomed, and you are almost guaranteed to have a good time. The good old fashioned musical has returned to Broadway and just like those legendary shows from an era gone by, this new musical confection with a book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Mr. Beguelin, is big, broad and brassy. It is full of stereotypes, theatre references, production numbers and a lot of laughs from characters you learn to love. What sets this show apart, is that it takes a chance, betting against the odds, that an important subject matter can be addressed and resolved, even if heavily sugar coated with humor, song and dance, as long as real, honest human beings emerge in the process. The ingenuity used here is that the characters are not transformed, they are revealed as their layers of protective armor are shed by the force of integrity.
The story is largely based on the original concept by Jack Viertel which was inspired by actual events, one of which happened as early as 2010 in Mississippi. Two lesbians want to attend their high school prom together as a couple but the school refuses to let this happen and cancels the prom. Add four downtrodden, narcissistic musical theatre stars that feel they need to find a cause to support, in order to gain some good press and “bingo!” the lesbian who is not allowed to attend her prom in Edgewater Indiana suddenly pops up on the internet. The four actors make their way to the very small conservative town and the mayhem begins. Hysterical antics begin as this motley crew of actors meet the conservative Christian head of the PTA who happens to be the mother of the closeted Lesbian, the star struck principal of the school and the nebulous but sincere out and proud lesbian they have come to save. No need to go into detail but of course just like those beloved musicals of yesteryear, all’s well that ends well.
There is an incredible cast led by four great Broadway veterans that literally chew up the scenery, leaving no opportunity to make you howl with laughter, or belt out a song that will lift you out of your seat with applause. Beth Leavel gives a powerhouse performance as the despicable diva Dee Dee Allen. Christopher Sieber fills the desperate actor Trent Oliver with unfeigned hope and humor that matches his spirited vocal. Angie Schworer portrays the relentless and perpetual chorus girl looking for that big break with charm and insight. Then there is Brooks Ashmanskas who infuses Barry Glickman with infectious energy in a tour de force performance that is over the top and packed with heartfelt emotion. These talented performers are exhilarating and a joy to watch.
Director and Choreographer Casey Nicholaw coaxes laughs and candor out of every scene but knows when to turn the tide to profound passion. As always he fills the stage with powerful, high octane choreography that is precisely executed by a tireless ensemble. In this current political climate, that is experiencing a monumental moral schism, it might be said that this is not a Broadway musical for everyone and that it may offend a certain audience. On the other hand, it could be said that this should be a Broadway show that everyone should see, not to preach a certain rhetoric, but to use the power of theatre not to transform but reveal, and to affirm that there are always two sides to every story.
“The Prom” stars Brooks Ashmanskas, Beth Leavel, Christopher Sieber, Caitlin Kinnunen, Isabelle McCalla, Michael Potts, Angie Schworer, Courtenay Collins and Josh Lamon and an ensemble that includes Mary Antonini, Courtney Balan, Gabi Campo, Jerusha Cavazos, Shelby Finnie, Josh Franklin, Fernell Hogan, Joomin Hwang, Sheldon Henry, David Josefsberg, Becca Lee, Wayne Mackins, Kate Marilley, Vasthy Mompoint, Anthony Norman, Drew Redington, Jack Sippel, Teddy Toye, Kalyn West, and Brittany Zeinstra.
“The Prom” features scenic design by Scott Pask, costume design by Ann Roth and Matthew Pachtman, lighting design by Natasha Katz, sound design by Brian Ronan, wig and hair design by Josh Marquette, make-up design by Milagros Medina-Cerdeira, orchestrations by Larry Hochman, music direction by Meg Zervoulis, music supervision by Mary-Mitchell Campbell and casting by Telsey + Co./Bethany Knox. The Prom is based on an original concept by Jack Viertel.
“The Prom” has an open run at the Longacre Theatre (220 West 48th Street) on the following performance schedule: Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., Wednesday at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m., Thursday at 7:00 p.m., Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturday at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m., and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. To purchase tickets and for more information about “The Prom,” visit https://theprommusical.com/. Running time is 2 hours and 30 minutes including intermission.
Photo: Isabelle McCalla and Caitlin Kinnunen in “The Prom.” Credit: Deen van Meer.