Broadway stars Barry and Dee Dee are slipping into “has been” territory after a series of flops, most recently a musical about Eleanor Roosevelt that opens and closes on the same night. Anxious to revive their reputations, they look for a newsworthy cause to support, but every issue they come up with is too complex, too boring, too controversial, or has some other problem.
Until they hear of the perfect Broadway cause: a lesbian high school student in Indiana has been told she cannot take her girlfriend to the prom. In two shakes of a chorus boy’s bum, they’re off to fight the good fight in small town America. They are accompanied by waiter/actor/Julliard snob Trent Oliver, Roxie Hart perennial understudy Angie, and their excitable press agent Sheldon Saperstein.
Of course, there are complications, due both to the machinations of anti-gay activist PTA nightmare, Mrs. Greene, and the visiting actors’ out-of-control egos. There is also a charming up-and-down romance between Broadway star Dee Dee and local principal Mr. Hawkins (gracefully played by Sinclair Mitchell).
All of this adds up to a flimsy plot upon which to hang songs and dances and theatre jokes all wrapped up in a gay rights valentine.
It may be flimsy, but the whole, like Roxie’s hubby, “is a whole lot greater than the sum of its parts.” And that’s an understatement.
Choreographer/director Casey Nicholaw knows from Broadway dancing, and he’s pulled out all the stops. No wonder he was nominated for a Tony (the winner was Rachel Chavkin, for “Hadestown.”) You can see both Broadway touring productions in San Francisco right now and compare them for yourself. Believe me, it must have been a tough call for the Tony deciders!
“The Prom” features Broadway dancing at its finest. Just weeks ago, I saw the current Broadway hit revival of “The Music Man,” celebrated for its choreography, and it wasn’t better than this. If you love Broadway, you’ll love “The Prom.”
“The Prom” is full of musical, dance, and theatrical jokes delivered with Vaudeville-esque joy by a company of Broadway veterans. Everybody will enjoy this show, but theatre folk will split their sides laughing. I did, anyway.
All of the performers are excellent. As Barry Glickman, Patrick Wetzel prances with such glee that his legs by themselves could win an award for comic excellence; they reminded me of the great Martyn Green. Courtney Balan’s affectionate rendition of the Sondheim send-up, “The Lady’s Improving,” is as tart as a berry. And the number where shy prom girl Emma (the subtle Karen Kearney) finds her “Zazz” with the assistance of Emily Borromeo as Angie is as touching as it is laughable.
One other thing must be said: keep your eye out for one tall chorus boy, 18-year-old Braden Allen King, performing on his first national tour.
You may have seen him before when he starred as “Billy Elliot” six years ago for Contra Costa Musical Theatre in Walnut Creek. He is a hoofer for the ages, and superlatively charismatic. He is going to be a major star or I’ll eat my hat.
“The Prom” continues at the Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco through July 17th. For further information, click here.
Rating: **** (For an explanation of TheatreStorm’s rating scale, click here.)
“The Prom” by Bob Martin & Chad Beguelin. Music by Matthew Sklar. Lyrics by: Chad Beguelin. Based on the original concept by Jack Viertel. Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. Scenic Design: Scott Pask. Costume Design: Ann Roth and Matthew Pachtman. Lighting Design: Natasha Katz. Sound Design: Brian Ronan. Hair Design: Josh Marquette. Makeup Design: Mil Agros Medina-Credeira.
Olivia Keating: Ashley Bruce. Dee Dee Allen: Courtney Balan. Second Reporter: James Caleb Grice. Sheldon Saperstein: Shavey Brown. Barry Glickman: Patrick Wetzel. Angie: Emily Borromeo. Trent Oliver: Bud Weber. Mrs. Greene: Ashanti J’aria. Mr. Hawkins: Sinclair Mitchell. Kalee: Alex Magro. Shelby: Zoë Brooke Reed. Abyssa: Kalyn West. Nick: James Caleb Grice. Kevin: Marcus Phillips. Motel Clerk: Thad Turner Wilson. Ensemble: Gabrielle Beckford. Ashley Bruce. Maurice Dawkins. James Caleb Grice. Megan Grosso. Marie Gutierrez. Chloe Rae Kehm. Braden Allen King. Brandon J. Large. Alex Magro. Christopher McCrewell. Adriana Negron. Marcus Phillips. Zoe Brooke Reed. Thad Turner Wilson. Josh Zacher.