‘The Prom’: It’s Here, it’s Queer and it’s an Absolute Must-See


Celeste Rose and Mia Cherise Hall in “The Prom.” (Courtesy of BW Productions)

By Audrey Hall, Arts Writer


If you’re looking for a feel-good musical about working past discrimination and learning to love yourself, Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin’s “The Prom” is the show for you. Pioneer Theatre Company’s last hoorah for the 2022-23 season is showing from May 12- 27 for seventeen high-energy performances, all featuring a fantastic cast, a talented orchestra and a soundtrack to be remembered. “The Prom” is the story of Emma Nolan, a 17-year-old girl living in a small town in Indiana. When she asks the school board if she can bring her girlfriend as her date to the prom, all hell breaks loose. Luckily, a band of four washed-up actors from New York City rush to her side in an attempt to support her, as well as boost their public image.

PTC’s Perfect Production Value

As per usual, the production value of “The Prom” is top-notch. The costumes, set design and choreography all work in harmony with the actors’ talent to bring Emma’s story to life. The stage is increasingly filled with costumes and set pieces of every color as the show progresses and ends with a wonderfully chaotic mess of glitter and streamers swirling about the actors’ feet. 

The show is fast-paced and switches from scene to scene quickly with very little wiggle room. However, the set design catered to these quick stage changes, and there was never a point where things were quiet for too long. The choreography was fun and attention-grabbing, jumping from classic Broadway dance breaks into an incredible display of step dancing and back into Fosse and his jazz hands.

Fantastic Casting (As Per Usual)

“The Prom” gained popularity after receiving a 2020 film adaptation. It’s fair to assume many audience members had the roles of the four main Broadway stars filled in their minds by the famed actors of the adaptation — Meryl Streep, James Corden, Andrew Rannells and Nicole Kidman. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill, but PTC’s main cast did a fantastic job doing just that. Anne Tolpegin as Dee Dee Allen gave me goosebumps when she belted out notes that were longer than I can even hold my breath. Josh Adamson as Trent Oliver had me laughing every time he was onstage. Wendy Waring’s Angie Dickinson was the epitome of “zazz” and Branch Woodman’s moving performance as Barry Glickman had me in tears.

The other two main characters, Emma (Celeste Rose) and Alyssa (Mia Cherise Hall), were also perfectly cast. Their onstage chemistry was undeniable and their voices were perfectly suited to the infamously difficult solos “Just Breathe” and “Alyssa Greene.” The two are only seen holding hands or hugging in the final scene, when they are finally allowed to kiss, and Rose and Hall do a great job of building up tension until the final wave of relief is allowed to wash over them and the audience.

A Move Towards Inclusivity

Although it may be a bit of a stereotype, there is no denying that musical theater tends to attract queer individuals and provides safe spaces for people to find themselves via acting. PTC has been doing a great job at pushing towards a more inclusive environment for actors and audience members alike through their productions over the last few years. In 2020, they tackled a show about gender identity, “The Anatomy of Love.” This year, it was “The Prom,” and it was recently announced that “The Rocky Horror Show” will be a part of the 2023-24 season. Shows like this open the theater up to be a place in which actors feel comfortable auditioning and performing, and draw in more of the younger audience that many theaters are currently trying to entice. As was stated by Principal Tom Hawkins (Bernard Dotson) in “The Prom,” musicals give us an escape from the struggles of a typical day-to-day life and allow us to come back into the world with a better mindset.

“The Prom” was an excellent close-out show for PTC’s 2022-2023 season. It reminded everyone that what is really important in life is loving and accepting one another for who they are, and that no matter who you love, you deserve a prom just like anyone else. 


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