‘The Prom’ brings jokes, but forgets character development


The premise of “The Prom” seems simple enough; a lesbian girl and her allies fight a homophobic PTA to go with her female date to the prom. But what if her allies are actually middle aged, washed up Broadway actors trying to expunge charges of narcissism through celebrity advocacy, and her most formidable adversary is also the mother of her girlfriend?

Based off of real events, “The Prom” is smart, clever and replete with contemporary gags, and it exudes characteristic late night irreverence into even the earliest of matinees.

The story of the show begins when a review from the New York Times compares the debut of a new Broadway show unfavorably to death by asphyxiation. This quickly results in the closing of the show and massive personal embarrassment to actors Dee Dee Allen (Beth Leavel) and Barry Glickman (Brook Ashmanskas). Slammed by critics for letting their bloated egos bleed into their performance, the disgraced duo enlist the help of has-been actor and Julliard graduate Trent Oliver (Christopher Seiber), and chorus girl Angie Dickerson (Angie Schworor), who quit her job after a stagnant twenty year long career.

Together, they set out to scrub their reputations and bathe in positive publicity. How? Celebrity activism, of course. After scrolling through Twitter for quick and easy causes to campaign for, they find the story of Emma Nolan (Caitlin Kinnunen), a teenage lesbian from the fictitious Edgewater, Indiana whose conservative high school has denied her right to bring a girl to prom.

“I read three quarters of a news story, and I knew I had to come,” sings Dee Dee, who leads Barry, Trent and Angie to protest during a PTA meeting.

Humor by shock is the maxim of the show. Profanity that could never be printed here is cheapened by repetition, eliciting awkward chuckles from an audience uncertain of whether it is allowed to laugh.

By the way, “The Prom” is not child friendly.

While desensitization kills some jokes, those that survive rock the theater with unbridled laughter.

Marketing itself as “Broadway’s Musical Comedy With Issues”, “The Prom” delights in its political zingers—like when a local homophobe assures his friends that Fox News is on “our side” or when the once-celebrities introduce themselves to the Indiana townsfolk as “liberal democrats from Broadway”.

That urban progressives are the intended audience is made clear by the caricaturing of Edgewater as “where the necks are red,” and by the PTA president, who when responding to an invocation of American values exclaimed, “This is not America. This is Indiana!”

The choreography was skillful and spot on; Energetic background dancers enlivened the stage during the biggest numbers, and scenes transitioned seamlessly.

Unfortunately, the play suffers from a lack of character development, portraying Emma as a standard awkward teenager, but gay. Her girlfriend, Alyssa (Isabelle McCalla) makes for a much more dynamic and interesting character—and should have been the protagonist.

There is no effort to give any depth to the Indianans; “The Prom” elects to use them as punching bags instead.

See “The Prom” for its endless inventory of jokes. Anyone looking for something more serious, look elsewhere.

The Prom will be closing its doors at the Longacre Theater in Times Square on August 11, 2019.