From the flashy, colorful lights of New York City to the drab and slow-moving suburban midwest, “The Prom” captures all the delights of queer-acceptance and community through on-point comedy and stellar performances.
On-stage at Shea’s Theatre until Oct. 2, “The Prom” shines in its medium, coming to the stage as quintessential musical theater. It embraces the campiness surrounding its concept, never holding back on the absurdity of two narcissistic Broadway stars revamping their public image by throwing a prom for a lesbian in smalltown Indiana.
It’s the kind of show that can’t (and shouldn’t) translate to the big screen, as demonstrated by Netflix’s failed attempt in 2020.
The musical relies significantly on knowing the world of musical theater — from jokes about non-Equity shows to the constantly bragging Julliard grad, Trent Oliver. Sitting in the theater with live performances, the comedy lands perfectly. But on screen, not so much.
There’s a self-awareness in almost everything the show does — from Emma’s delivery of the lines “Note to self, don’t be gay in Indiana,,” to the exaggerated personalities of protagonists and antagonists alike.
Perhaps best highlighting the show’s entertainment value is that of dynamic duo, Dee Dee Allen and Barry Glickman, played by Courtney Balan and Patrick Wetzel.
The two perfectly bounce off each other as self-obsessed individuals, stealing the show with side-eyed wariness at the banality of the suburban midwest. In balancing the outrageous acts of the New York natives comes lesbian teen herself, Emma. Emma’s journey to go to prom with still-closeted girlfriend, Alyssa, helps balance the laughs with a sentimental and heartwarming story.
This sentimentality especially comes to light when Emma offers to take Barry, who missed his own prom due to his own fear in asking out another boy.
The healing of Barry’s own inner-child paired with Emma’s queer coming-of-age works seamlessly together, demonstrating the growth and warmth of acceptance that can come at any stage of one’s life.
Where “The Prom” trips up is in its second act. With a runtime at two hours and 25 minutes, the concept surrounding “The Prom” fails to fill each minute with entertainment, allowing its content to run unfortunately thin toward the end.
Despite warding off all-too-easy, cringe-worthy moments in its first act, “The Prom” misses the mark in its resolution: a viral video of Emma singing that spurs the Broadway stars to host an LGBTQ+ prom for all of Indiana.
What is meant to be a moment showcasing the strength and inspiration of a community, as other LGBTQ+ teens gather in support of Emma, turns into a cheesy and out-of-touch reflection on the current generation of youth.
That is not to say that the second act holds no good moments. In particular, the performance of “Love Thy Neighbor” rings particularly funny and entertaining as Trent sings to the town’s youth about their hypocritical, Bible-based homophobia.
It’s a delightful earworm of a song that’ll have its audience humming along to it long after the curtains have been drawn.
“The Prom” shines as a love letter both to musical theatre and the queer community, making what could be a tragic and saddening story into an outright hilarious comedy of love, acceptance and growth.
Kara Anderson is the senior arts editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Kara Anderson is a senior arts editor at The Spectrum. She is an English and Spanish double major and is pursuing a certificate in creative writing. She enjoys baking chocolate chip cookies, procrastinating with solitaire and binging reality TV on the weekends.