Whether you’re bringing a date or are going stag, attending the national tour of The Prom at Playhouse Square will give you a night to remember. Playing now through November 21, 2021 at the Connor Palace, this bouncy and sparkly musical pokes fun at stereotypes and bigotry, while delivering a message of acceptance and inclusion.
Enter Drama Desk Award winner Barry Glickman (Patrick Wetzel), two-time Tony Award winner Dee Dee Allen (Courtney Balan), publicist Sheldon Saperstein (Shavey Brown), Juilliard graduate Trent Oliver (Bud Weber), and Chicago dancer Angie (Emily Borromeo). This quintet of quirky quacks is on a mission to bring Broadway’s best / worst ideas to middle-of-nowhere America. Why?
17-year-old Emma (Kaden Kearney) is “out,” but she’s not proud – she’s sad. She wants to take her on-the-down-low girlfriend Alyssa (Kalyn West) to the Senior Prom, but the small-town PTA has its collective panties in a bunch over their kids being at a “gay” event (huh?!) Emma’s classmates then blame and bully her because the town decides to call off their big dance… and cancel culture cancels Emma.
What’s a lesbian to do? Luckily, our five liberal Democrats from New York are looking for a “project” to make themselves seem less narcissistic. These Broadway brats have failed both professionally and personally, and they feel that solving a world problem will get some good publicity. Nothing makes a statement quite like bursting into a PTA meeting with signs that say things like “Lez is More” and “Wish You Were Queer!”
Although the topic of the show is serious and layered, many of the characters are not that deep. The background players of Alyssa’s friends, mother, and classmates are very one-dimensional, but still entertaining to watch.
Luckily, the actors portraying the more substantial leads add a little bit more depth to their roles, so the audience can connect with the love story between Emma and Alyssa. Wetzel’s character of Barry is certainly the biggest, most alive personality on the stage – and his energy is both needed and celebrated. Balan’s character of Dee Dee is reminiscent of a toddler on a sugar high, but it’s nice to see her story arc as Sinclair Mitchell’s character of Mr. Hawkins shows her the ways of the heart via Applebee’s and cold, hard truths.
The vocals in this show are solid, with standout musical moments coming from Kearney’s honest “You Happened,” and uplifting “Unruly Heart.” There’s also a lot of joy in Wetzel’s “Barry Is Going to Prom,” and heartbreak in West’s “Alyssa Greene” numbers. The songs reverberate with longing, irony, and tug at the heart. The clever lyrics are smart and smile-worthy.
The show is also full of humor, with the guffaw-inducing performances of larger group numbers such as “Changing Lives” (where our Broadway stars plan to change the world), and “Love Thy Neighbor” (a jaunty bit about hypocrisy!)
Add in lots of glittery costumes, vibrantly colorful lights/scenery, frenetically peppy group choreography, and more jazz hands than Bob Fosse could ever put on stage, and The Prom is a non-stop, effervescent blast of “Zazz” and amusement. The show is not deep, it is not a “thinker” of a piece, nor does it have the most super-catchy songs that will stay with audiences forever. But it’s a light in the dark of our COVID world, and it’s worth seeing whether you arrive with or without a corsage in hand.
You can go to The Prom (no prom-posal required) now through November 21, 2021. Oh! And be prepared for a Monster Truck Rally, plastic clarinets, lots of divas, and don’t forget to bring your COVID-19 vaccination card (or proof of a negative test), and a mask with your Photo ID (all of Playhouse Square’s Health and Safety Standards can be found here.)
LOCATION: The Connor Palace at Playhouse Square
RUN TIME: 2 hours and 25 min (includes intermission)
HEALTH AND SAFETY GUIDELINES: https://www.playhousesquare.org/plan-your-visit-main/health-safety