THE PROM is a light, funny and breezy musical and that is meant as a compliment. Shows with layers and layers of depth and angst (can you say JAGGED LITTLE PILL?) are a recent musical staple. But happily, there are shows like THE PROM which can balance out the heavier shows. It is a sleek and well-crafted musical in the traditional sense of structure and in the depth that it chooses to dig. With a plot that sounds like recent headlines, THE PROM, under the skillful direction and choreography of Casey Nicholaw, manages to put a fresh veneer on its traditionally laid out plot. Emma (Kaden Kearney) wants to attend her high school prom but wants her date to be (hold on to your seats) a girl!!! This sends the entire PTA into a panic and as a result they decide to cancel the prom. Meanwhile, back in New York, two narcissistic Broadway stars, Dee Dee Allen (Courtney Balan) and Barry Glickman (Patrick Wetzel), have just opened in a musical about Eleanor Roosevelt that was so hated by the critics it closed on opening night. Deciding they need some good PR and fast to counter the personal skewering they both received from the critics, they look for a cause to support that will give them some positive media visibility. That cause winds up being Emma. Bringing along two fellow actors and a press agent they head to Nebraska to attend the PTA meeting being held to officially determine the fate of the prom. Instead of the simple policy reversal they wanted to obtain, their presence only manages to create total havoc. The show bounces along until the end of Act II where the students all see the light regarding the error of their ways. In the span of one song, they go from homophobic and self-centered to totally accepting and generous of spirit. An all-inclusive prom will go on!!!! Not very real but somehow in THE PROM it works and is surprisingly satisfying.
The entire company delivers solid performances. Kaden Kearney‘s Emma is a true joy to watch and even more of a joy to the ears while singing. She brings a warmth and a believability to the role. In her talented hands, we see her conflicted thoughts throughout the evening. She finds herself suddenly in the spotlight and at the center of a national LGBT story when all she wanted to do was quietly go to the prom with her date and dance.
Courtney Balan is nothing shy of hilarious as the narcissistic Dee Dee Allen. Gifted with impeccable timing and a solid vocal belt in the Merman style, the stage truly sparkles whenever she is on it.
Patrick Wetzel scores as Barry Glickman, the flamboyantly gay co-star of the ill-fated ELEANOR: THE MUSICAL. He manages to add a layer of humanity to the very broadly written role giving us a character we empathize with and care about.
If the part of Barry is broadly written, then you might say that the part of Trent Oliver is barely written. Much to his credit, Bud Weber’s natural charm, good looks and strong vocal abilities infuses Trent with a likeability that makes him far more fleshed out than what is on the page.
The score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin captures warmth, happiness and love and sends it all sailing back in warm waves over the audience. From heartfelt love ballads to biting satire THE PROM delivers a soft contemporary rock flavor mixed with a large scoop of classic Broadway Musical ‘Zazz.’
THE PROM is not a great show by any means, but it is loveable and does provide laughs and a feel-good feeling for two and a half hours. And in these days of chaos in the world, isn’t that something we all could use?
THE PROM is playing through September 11, 2022 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. For tickets or more information, visit their website at www.centertheatregroup.org.