Review: The Prom on Broadway

The only 2 things I wanted to do for my Birthday this year was to go see “The Prom” on Broadway and eat cake. And I got to do both! Score for this very gal that is me!

20181113_182915 (1)I had become aware of a new musical called The Prom, about two years ago now. It had a brief run in Atlanta in 2016 and gained some worthy “This Is A Show That Should Be Seen Like Now!” buzz and I had been counting down the days until I heard this gem would be coming to the stage that is Broadway. It was then announced about a year ago that The Prom would be coming to New York to make its Broadway Premiere at last and I was ever so flipping happy!

Then it was announced that it would be going into The Cort Theater on Broadway. And my excitement quickly then went from a “Heck Yeah!” to a “Ugh. But why The Cort?!?!?! It needs a renovation! The ladies room is a disaster and I just can’t with this theater!” I always pray every theater season that a show I want to see doesn’t go to The Cort Theater because I just can’t with that theater. It! Needs! A! Renovation! And for that reason, I’ve missed a few shows I really wanted to see because I refuse to step foot in that theater until that renovation happens. I missed Bright Star, I missed Fish in the Dark. It hurt my “Theater Loving Heart” ever so to miss a show I really wanted to see, but comfort matters and sitting down for over two hours, well you want to be somewhat comfortable. And if you have to go to the bathroom, well this theater has over 1,000 seats available and only five stalls and three sinks total for the ladies rooms. Unacceptable, and so I just can’t with that theater until a renovation happens.

So when I heard The Prom, was originally going to go to “The Cort Theater”, a show I had been wanting to see since I heard it existed, my heart literally “Theater Broke”. I was kind of devasted. The Cort Theater usually doesn’t house many musicals, so I thought for sure this show would go anywhere but that theater. It hurt to even think this, but I was going to have to pass on seeing this show I so wanted to see.

20181103_110558Then a “Theater Miracle” happened. With the closing of “A Bronx Tale”, “The Prom” would now be moving from The Cort Theater to the Longacre Theater. I was sooooooooo ecstatic when I heard this was happening! I was hoping this would happen and it did! The Longacre Theater is so beautiful and a perfect fit for this delightful new musical I couldn’t wait to see!

Okay so my “unnecessary personal backstory and theater changes” set aside…. Now onto the Review for “The Prom” on Broadway……..

The Prom is a new musical inspired by real life occurrences with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw (Mean Girls, Tuck Everlasting, Something Rotten!), a score by Broadway songwriting team of Chad Beguelin on lyrics and Matthew Sklar on music (The Wedding Singer!!!!!!!! Elf), and a book by Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone). The cast includes some of Broadway finest talents along the lines of Beth Leavel, Brooks Ashmanskas, Christopher Sieber, Angie Schworer, Cailtin Kinnunen, Josh Lamon, and Michael Potts. The creative team and cast along with the story, made this a show I knew I had to see if I could.

The story goes as this…. In a small town in Indiana, a girl named Emma (played by Caitlin Kinnunen), wants to take her girlfriend, Alyssa (played by Isabelle McCalla) to their prom. The parents in the PTA find out about this and instead of telling the girl and her girlfriend they can’t go, they all together cancel the prom entirely.

Before that story starts, a new musical has just opened on Broadway starring the legendary Broadway actress Dee Dee Allen (played by Beth Leavel) and Barry Glickman (played by Brook Ashmanskas). The reviews are not great and the show opens and closes on the same night. Everyone is saying these two only care about themselves. To show that they do care about others they decide to take up an issue, a cause to show how selfless they are to prove that that is just not true. So they, along with three other fellow theater friends of theirs, Trent Oliver (played by Christopher Sieber), Angie (played by Angie Schworer), Sheldon Saperstein (played by Josh Lamon), hear about a prom in a small town in Indiana getting cancelled because a girl wanted to take her girlfriend to it. And so it’s decided! This is the cause that they want to take on. A cause which they feel that they can help with and make a difference and if they look selfless while in that process of helping others, than so be it!

20181113_194249(0)Fast forward now to that small town in Indiana where the PTA is having a forum with the students and parents about the cancelled prom. The Principal of the High School, Mr. Hawkins (played by Michael Potts) is trying to have a calm and rational discussion between the parents and the students of the school. Minutes into this discussion come along Dee Dee, Barry, Trent, and Angie barging into this PTA Meeting letting their presence be known to all with posters declaring their support for Emma and how this cancellation of the prom can just simply not stand. They came to show they can do good, be selfless and care for others. And if this very help, helps their image in the eyes of others, well than that’s just a consolation prize.

They came expecting everyone to know who they were.  They expected with just their presence alone behind this cause that it would help resolve everything immediately.  That it would be immediately fixed and immediately be repaired. Unfortunately them coming backfired and it didn’t help and just made matters a bit more complicated instead. They don’t let that deter them from still helping and vow to stay until this matter is resolved.

So with what started out as a mission that make themselves look more emphatic and selfless in the eyes of others turned into something in fact real for them. Emma and this issue of being excluded started to become the real reason why they stayed and not just to make themselves look good. They started to really, truly care. They got to know this community and tried to help make it a better, more inclusive place for all along with help from Mr. Hawkins and Emma, herself. They truly started to really care and not just “Acting Like They Cared” cared. They knew they couldn’t leave until they could help Emma and this community to see the light. And help this small town in Indiana to realize people are people and everyone deserves to be included and not excluded based on who they love.

I absolutely adored and loved this show exactly as much as I thought I would! It was sweet. It was perfect. It was heartwarming. It had heart. It was special and a show that needs to been seen by everyone. And a final “Thank You”, once again to whoever made this show transfer to The Longacre! Just Thank You!

What made this show so incredibly special was its message about how everyone is a person just like anyone else and how no one should be judged. Who someone loves is just one part of who they are and it’s not something that should be judged in any way, shape, or form. Cause at the end of everything everyone has feelings. And always remembering that we should all treat others the way we would like to be treated which is with kindness and with heart. This show emphasized that philosophy quite perfectly indeed, with a bit of humor and sincerity along its way.

20181113_181643It’s not every Theater Season that you get a musical that is completely original.  A musical not based on a book or a movie or a TV show.  Any Theater Season that features a new and original musical is always a special thing and always the kind of show that I must see.

The cast of The Prom is filled with all star talent, ALL STAR I TELL YA! The creative team is filled with all star talent, ALL STAR I TELL YA! Can you tell I’m a fan of the cast/creative team for this show? Hmmmmmm….. YES!

I’ll first start with who’s who in this cast of what…. ALL STARS! See you’re getting it! To say I’m a fan of this incredibly talented cast would be an understatement! I love this cast! I’ve been seeing the shows of Broadway for quite some time now and as one does when one sees a show here or there you become a fan of the performers of these Broadway shows you see along the way. So many talented performers grace the stage every season in new shows or revived ones and there are always certain actors who truly make their mark and this show, The Prom, features some of the most seasoned and talented actors that have ever graced the stage that is Broadway!

20181113_192855The Prom has one the most the impressive ensemble cast of actors on Broadway right now. It takes every performer to make a show like this work.  And boy, does this show have that amazing incredible talent. You have Brook Ashmanskas, Christopher Sieber, Beth Leavel, Angie Schworer, Caitlin Kinnuenun, Isabelle McCalla, Josh Lamon, Courtney Collins, and Michael Potts.  Talent, just incredible talent!

What I love about the performers in this show is it truly gives them that chance to shine center stage. I’ve seen all of these performers in other shows and usually they are in shows where they have been the supporting characters and I love supporting players in a production.  They make the show pop. Some of my favorite theater moments in a show are from the supporting players because these actors usually make the show just a little more interesting than it might otherwise have been. They may not technically be “the leads of a show” per say, but they play the characters that have the best one liners and most memorable moments during a show’s production.

That’s why “The Prom” is just so incredible! It gave some of the best character actors from Broadway who were mostly known for their supporting performances and brought them up to the front of the stage and boy did they shine! It was so nice to see actors that I have become such a fan of finally given their due with some leads. No one out shined the other, they all shined equally! I like to say in this show that these four actors of Beth Leavel, Brooks Ashmanskas, Christopher Sieber, Angie Schworer were an “Ensemble Group Of Lead Actors”.  All these performers were the leads, but they were also an ensemble at the same time and it just worked perfectly!

Next up…. Creative Team which are all….. ALL STARS! To say I am a fan of this creative team would be an understatement. Some of Broadway’s finest are once again involved in this delightful creative new gem of a musical that is “The Prom”.

-Casey Nicholaw- Directing and as well as serving as Choreographer. He did such an excellent job at directing this incredible show. The choreography though, sooooo incredible! The dancing in “Tonight Belongs To Us” was just beyond! Just beyond! I don’t know if “Just Beyond!” is a thing, but I’m making it one and it means super amazing and perfect, absolutely perfect! Just when you think the dancing might stop and end in that number, it goes on even further and you can’t help but just sit back on watch it amazement at this choreography that it so put together! It was a real moment in the show!

-Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin- Book- *With Original Concept By Jack Viertel*. The book for this show was so well done. Martin, known for his Tony Award winning skills on The Drowsy Chaperone, and Beguelin known for his work as part of a Broadway songwriting team with Matthew Sklar on such musicals as The Wedding Singer, Elf, as well as his contribution to the current Broadway musical of Aladdin, come together as co-writers for this show. So based on the previous work of these two, you know these two minds are as creative and unique as they come and it completely shows in the writing of the book. The book was clever, full of wit, delightful, campy, charming along with having moments of seriousness. The balance of the comedy/drama aspect was handled perfectly and there wasn’t one moment in this show that lacked that perfect balance of being funny as well as having moments of being real or serious.

20181113_182053 (1)-Chad Beguelin (Lyrics) and Matthew Sklar (Music)- The score for this show was beyond…just beyond (see a few paragraphs above for meaning….which of course is amazing and perfect!)! I loved this score! Every song was filled with such emotion, sincerity, bits of humor and full of hope. All the songs had such life to them and just popped in every single note sung in every single song. The songs told a story, had a purpose, and were just an incredible pleasure and joy to see performed on stage by the amazing group of actors singing them.

A few songs really stood out:

*Tonight Belongs To Us*- The melody of this song was just so incredibly catchy! The beginning of the song starts off with such hope and promise and turns into…..well that would be a spoiler if I said anymore, so mum’s the word.  What I’m trying to say when talking about this number which ends Act 1, is you think the story is going one way with such happiness of hope for the future ahead and it takes a drastic turn in the opposite direction. The way the song was performed from start to end was done effortlessly.  This song had every emotion you could possibly ever feel all rolled up into one amazingly well done and heartbreaking number.  I’ll just end this with saying that it was a moment in the show that lifts you up and than breaks your heart seconds later. And how the same thing said “Tonight Belongs To Us” can come across in different meanings entirely.

*We Look To You*- Dee Dee and Mr. Hawkins become close and get to know each other. They dine together quite often at what Dee Dee calls “The Apple of Bees” when referring to the restaurant of Applebee’s (I think that’s what she called it at least if my memory serves me correct, if not, I’m sorry). Anyways, most of the people at the PTA meeting didn’t know of any of these Broadway actors barging into the school, but as a fan of the theater that is Broadway, Mr. Hawkins knew who they were. And does as all us “Nerds of The Art that is Theater” do when we meet are Broadway Idols, we might “fangirl out” a little. He tells Dee Dee that he is a real fan of her work and loves to go to New York every summer and see a bunch of Broadway shows.

This song he sings was so genuine, heartfelt, and sweet about his appreciation for the theater.  He sings how seeing shows is his escape from reality and the real world, and for how just a bit of time life just takes a pause and you can enter a world other than your own for a moment in time. How it’s simply just magical and wonderful and how sometimes you just need that escape from life and just am able to stop thinking about day to day things and just focus on another world in another place. How sometimes we all need that escape and for him, it’s the theater.

As someone who has been a regular Broadway theatergoer for the last almost 20 (Omg! How Time Does Fly!  Cliche, but as you get older so true) I can totally and completely relate to this song. I don’t know what it is about seeing a show, but I love it, even still after all these many years. Others may play sports for that escape from reality, I see shows.  I loved how this song perfectly expressed that love that a person can have for the art that is theater and the wonderful place that the theater can be for those who truly can appreciate it.  This number was written and performed so extremely well.  It was such a beautiful song in its entirety from every lyric to every note.

*Dance With You*- Emma and Alyssa share a lovely duet in this number about how all they want is to just dance with each other. That’s all they want. They don’t want to be a cause.  They don’t need some elaborate kind of setting with all the works. They just need a song and a dance and each other.

This song is wonderfully expressed through its lyrics of how they are just two people who just want anything else that anyone else would want out of life. How something so simply as going to a dance with the one you love has to be made complicated by the actions of others and all they want is to just dance with one another, that’s it. Just one night to be just like any other kid looking forward to going to the prom with their significant other.  They just want that moment like anyone else. They have feelings, like anyone else. They have hopes, like anyone else. They have dreams, like anyone else. So why should they be made to feel like they are not deserved of this moment in life, like anyone else?

This song is so lovely written and also breaks your heart at the same time. The simplicity of just wanting to go to a dance, a prom, and to have that moment in your life taken away for the most nonsensical of reasons just because of who they happen to love. How the thing of just simply wanting to dance with someone you love was all they wanted.

20181113_185223I just have to take a moment to “fangirl out” a bit. A big reason of why I really wanted to see this show was because of the songwriting team of Chad Beguelin and Matthew Sklar. As someone who has seen quite a few shows over the years (actually, currently in the process of trying to figure out exactly how many shows I’ve seen over the years. Lost track around 2004, so it’s a process now at this point. Never lose track of how many Broadway shows you’ve seen if you see shows every now and then, it’ll take a minute to figure it out. Anyways….) I’ve really thought about what my absolute favorite show has been. My answer to that age old question is…. The Wedding Singer! Not only did I love the movie and the Broadway show was like perfectly, I mean perfectly adapted for the stage, perfectly cast, but the score was by far my absolute favorite of all of time!

20181113_184439My love for the score of the musical of The Wedding Singer holds no bounds. I am a fan! I remember at the time the show started on Broadway I was still for the most part going on bus trips and remembering how I had a few trips scheduled before my scheduled planned trip to see The Wedding Singer. I remember seeing Stephen Lynch’s face on a big billboard in the middle of Times Square with a piano tie and thinking to myself on all of these other trips, “I want to see this show like now!”. It was super difficult to fully appreciate these other shows, not their fault, they were good shows too, but I love the 80s and this movie and I just wanted to see the show already!  You know?  So one day, my Mom (my constant 20181113_184334Theater Pal, well the only one that will still put up with my love of the theater at least) said, “Let’s just go tomorrow and see it on our own before the scheduled bus trip”. I didn’t hesitate answering, “YESSSSSSS!!!!!”. Am I dramatic? Do I get excited over anything theater related? The answer is once again, “YESSSSSS!!!!”.  Spoiler- I ended up seeing the show 5 times on Broadway!  I’m sure that number would of went higher if the show stayed opened longer.  This amazing gem of a show deserved a longer run.

So we went to the show, and so many of my favorite Broadway performers were in this show. Amy Spanger, Richard H. Blake, Tina Maddigan.  I wasn’t aware of Stephen Lynch before this show but afterwards….. Such a Fan! So the movie and the cast got me to the theater, but the songs were what made me a mega-fan of this gem of a musical.

A lot of movies get that stage adaptation treatment at some point. Some are okay. Some are good.  And some are just simply perfect! And The Wedding Singer was that perfect movie to stage adaptation. The songs in this show were just perfectly translated for the stage, making those classic moments in the movie even better by the songs that accompanied them.

20181113_194903These songs were full of life, energy, happiness, cleverness, wit, and charm. They were songs that you just couldn’t help but bop your head along to with every lyric to every word. You felt a joy listening to them and didn’t want the songs to end. They are songs to this day I still adore and love and remember most of the words to. In times of needing a pick me up, I turn to YouTube and watch The Tony Awards from 2006 just to hear and see “When It’s Your Wedding Day”, if that song doesn’t make you laugh, smile, and just feel okay for a few moments than nothing will. These songs remind me of a more simply time in my life, these songs that are just full of joy and hope and happiness. A score that after all these years, will always be songs I will listen to and while listening to a smile will just automatically appear on my face, never fails.  If you have yet to hear this score, get a CD of it already!

20181113_194619 (1)So when I heard these two were involved in the making of a new musical, I knew the show was in excellent hands for quality songs that would be full of depth, heart, joy, sadness, and any other emotion you look for in wanting to hear amazing new songs on the Broadway stage. And I wasn’t wrong, The Prom is becoming that score for me now that The Wedding Singer had been the moment I heard it. I am such a fan of the songwriting team of Beguelin and Sklar! Okay, I think I geeked out and fangirled enough now. Like I said, I’m a fan!

Okay….. just one more bit of me geeking out as a fangirl.  I don’t always get to go to the stage door after shows because sometimes I go on bus trips and you have to get right back up on the bus afterwards.  So since I show this show on my own with me and my Mom, I got to wait at the stage door for this fabulous show filled with so many actors I adore and am a fan of.

20181113_193115Usually during the preview period of a Broadway show the creative team is still working on the material for the show daily and it’s not unexpected to see the director or the lyricist or book writer at these performances.  So when after the show I was walking to the stage door, I see one part of the book writing and songwriting team, Chad Beguelin!  I was kind of nervous, but I had to go and say how I am such a fan of The Wedding Singer and now The Prom.  He was so nice!  My Mom said how it was my Birthday and all I wanted to do was see this show.  He then asked if we wanted to go have a backstage tour.  I was like, “What!  Okay!”.  I got to go on the Longacre stage and make my “unofficial Broadway debut”!  It was so cool and it was only a moment in time but it was something I’ll never forget.  I’m just a nobody and this talented person whose work I so admire was so kind to this nobody for a moment in time.  Moments like this remind me that there are nice, kind people out there and some moments in life that can be good can happen randomly and unexpectedly still.  It’s a moment that I’m sure will never happen again, but it’s a moment in time that this Theater Nerd will never forget as “The Best Birthday Ever”!

This show took about two years to make its Broadway debut after its tryout run in Atlanta in the summer of 2016.  It was a bit of time before it made its way to the Big Apple.  I didn’t see the production in Atlanta, but the production in NYC was perfection!  What changes, if any were done which I’m sure there were some, just made this production in New York even better.  I can only guess, never having seen the production in Atlanta after all.  This is a situation where the show took a minute to arrive on Broadway and everyone took their time to work on this show and when it did finally arrive it showed the effort that went into making this show what it was which was excellent!  Time well spent on a show where literally everything came together in exactly the right way.  From the casting, to the direction, to the book, to the songs, to the costumes, to the design of the playbill, to the theater.  This is a show that didn’t make an immediate transfer, where more time was spent on it and it was time well spent, indeed!

Okay, so all in all this is a show that everyone needs to see!  You leave the theater feeling happy and full of hope and the possibility of hope.  And any show that makes you feel that walking away with those kinds of feelings is a show that has done its job!  And The Prom is that show!  So go on now……  See it, already!

Author: Jodi Fisher

Hi! I’m Jodi! My dream is to live in NYC, see a Broadway show every single day, and write about the arts for a living. Until that delightful day arrives, I’ll be over here blogging about my love of the arts!

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