By Sandi Durell
The ultimate narcissists get real when they realize they need a cause! So a group of aging Broadway actors, who have seen better days, decide they’re going to be the saviors at a high school prom in small town Indiana when they read about a young teenager excluded from her prom because she’s . . .a lesbian! Seems the powers that be have decreed no same sex couples.
The Drowsy Chaperone’s Tony Winner Bob Martin has written the book with Chad Beguelin. Music by Matthew Sklar, with lyrics by Beguelin is a coming together where big brash Broadway tunes meet today’s musical comedy. And multi award winning Beth Leavel (Tony, Drama Desk, OCC Awards etc. for her Drowsy Chaperone title role performance) will blow you away as she takes on Dee Dee Allen, a hot shot Broadway Diva, whose lights are fast dimming when she’s critically thrown under the bus on a recent opening night.
The little Broadway group decide to become celebrity activists to pump up their fading careers, and bring them some positive press. They include Barry Glick (the always explicitly hilarious Brooks Ashmanskas ), along with pretentious Trent Oliver -actor/waiter (Christopher Sieber who fills his ego with chatter to anyone within listening distance about his days at Julliard), and sexy long-legged wisecracking beauty Angie (Angie Schworer). And so, along with their PR man Sheldon Saperstein (funny Josh Lamon), they fly to Indiana and march (with placards in hand – “Lez is More”) into the gym in Edgewater to save sweet self-effacing Emma (a terrific Caitlin Kinnunen) from those nasty high school contemporaries who snub her because of who she is. Dee Dee, in leopard tights, and the gang are singing “It’s Not About Me.”
To make matters worse, Caitlin’s affection just happens to be for Alyssa (adorable Isabelle McCalla, who has not come out), and whose mother, Mrs. Greene (Courtenay Collins, making her Broadway debut!) is head of the PTA, and is a staunch believer that you can’t be gay in Indiana or, for that matter, anywhere else. Principal Hawkins, a voice of reason, (well chosen Michael Potts) says the State’s attorney has declared this a civil rights issue, a matter of freedom of choice.
Now put all that to song and dance, with choreography and direction by Casey Nicholaw, and it becomes a very wacky-world. This zany, cleverly written musical addresses social issues with great emotional ups and downs while you laugh your socks off at Barry who becomes Emma’s BF, giving her advice on dressing and primping so she can make her Prom debut with Alyssa in front of everyone, especially Mrs. Greene. Little shooting hearts are also flying between Principal Hawkins and Dee Dee (who’d a thunk!) as he admits his total adoration for her as one of his favorite actors while they dine at – oh, you know . . . Apples and Bees?
While the Broadway gang checks into the local motel (a scene of silliness that you can’t help but chuckle) to find their expectations about services much lowered, they continue to plot and plan their next move from bringing in the press to putting Emma on TV. Songs are stories that resonate – – Emma and Alyssa’s dream so evident in the heartfelt, emotional “Dance With You. ”
Angie gives Emma some advice in the sexy “Zazz” in Fosse-styled song and dance, with a hilarious Barry not far behind strutting his stuff readying to take Emma to the prom – “Barry is Going to Prom.”
Lessons are learned all around by everyone as thoughts, feelings and pre-conceived ideas about rules, right or wrong, religion and the Bible, begin to change. Even the ultimate it’s all about me, Dee Dee, sees the light big time – “The Lady is Improving” – about what giving truly means, but (*spoiler alert) not before Emma is horribly humiliated by the school in a down and dirty move orchestrated by Mrs. Greene and cohorts.
There’s terrific hi-energy ensemble dance in hot sequin sneakers [costume design Ann Roth/Matthew Pachtman – who have also created fabulous glitzy looks for Beth Leavel, Brooks Ashmanskas (silver tux and tiara) and Angie Schworer].
The scenic design is by Scott Pask, with lighting by Natasha Katz and sound by Brian Ronan.
Definitely a fun night out at the theater going to a prom unlike one you’ve ever attended!
The Prom – Longacre Theatre, 247 West 44 Street, NYC – run time: 2 hrs 15 min with intermission