Oscar E Moore

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THE PROM – Love thy neighbor and love this show

December 10th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore


Make a date.  Take a date.  With a friend.  A lover.  A teenager or person of a certain age who remembers what “musical-comedy” was in its prime.  Better yet take someone who doesn’t see eye to eye with you and see what happens after seeing this most clever, tuneful, original, uproariously funny, sweet and chock full of show-stopping numbers that is at the Longacre Theatre.  THE PROM is its title.  THE PROM is much more than the sum of its parts.  THE PROM is a feel good musical.  Better still, it is a feel good about yourself musical.

Favorable word of mouth, the best publicity there is, along with a ton of great critical reviews will keep this show running for a long time.  Following in the footsteps of BYE BYE BIRDIE and HAIRSPRAY it bridges the generational gap that will have many regional theatres just waiting to stage this courageous and tender tuner.

The book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin doesn’t mince words.  It get rights to the point.  The plot is deceptively simple.  Four almost has been Broadway stars and their press agent hear about a teenage lesbian in Indiana who wants to go to the prom with her not as yet out girlfriend but the PTA has banned same sex couples from the school prom.

This immediately after a disastrous review in the New York Times closes their musical of Eleanor Roosevelt starring diva Dee Dee Allen (Beth Leavel) and the lighter than air Barry Glickman (Brooks Ashmanskas) who are accused of being narcissists and unlikable.

They along with Angie (Angie Schworer) who has been toiling in the chorus of CHICAGO for years awaiting her turn to go on as Roxie and Trent Oliver (Christopher Sieber) who is at the moment a waiter at the opening and closing night party of the Eleanor musical who repeatedly boasts of his training at Juilliard and their press agent Sheldon Saperstein (Josh Lamon) concoct a scheme to help Emma (a wondrous Caitlin Kinnunen) without whom THE PROM would not be the delightful show that it is.

Emma does not want to cause a fuss.  She certainly doesn’t want these crazy actors from New York.  With her honest and sweet portrayal you immediately feel for her and want her to achieve her wish to simply dance with her girlfriend at the prom.  She has just the right tone and attitude to counterbalance the outrageous behavior of the actors who have come to help her.  Or have they come to get some good PR and revitalize their sinking careers?

The score (Music by Matthew Sklar) and (Lyrics by Chad Beguelin) will probably become a best-selling original cast album.  The songs are exciting and uplifting.  THE PROM is a perfect marriage of book and score and talent.

Emma’s girlfriend Alyssa (Isabelle McCalla) makes for a great mate.  Their ballads are honest and heartfelt.  Alyssa’s homophobic and in denial mom Mrs. Greene (Courtney Collins) is head of the PTA that wants to ban the prom.  She locks horns with the pro-inclusive Principal Mr. Hawkins (an excellent Michael Potts who is a great longtime fan of the diva Dee Dee, Ms. Level.  He adds gravitas to the show beautifully.

Production numbers are quite exciting as they build and build to their climax.  The choreography and direction by Casey Nicholaw are both superb with the cast of energetic teenagers wowing us time after time.

The “quartet of actors” each have show-stopping turns:  Angie’s “Zazz” – Sieber’s “Love Thy Neighbor” Ashmanskas’ “Barry Is Going to Prom” and Beth Level’s vocal powerhouse rendition of “The Lady is Improving.”

And now a word about the brilliant and exceptional Kate Marilley who is responsible for my seeing THE PROM twice.  I thank her profusely for her courage and talent.  At the matinee performance on Saturday November 17th the curtain was held for some time as backstage havoc was wrought.  A small slip of paper in the program stated that Kate Marilley would be performing the small role of Olivia Keating – reporter.  When the show finally started and Beth Leavel was not on stage something was amiss.  As it turned out they were finding a costume for Kate – a simple red dress.  And without ever performing the role of Dee Dee, and without a rehearsal – a new star glowed brightly.  She didn’t miss a beat.  Her comedic timing was brilliant and she stopped the show with “The Lady is Improving.”

Remember her name.  KATE MARILLEY.  She might be hard to find on stage as she is not assigned a role but understudies multiple parts, is a swing and assistant dance captain!  Brava !!!

NOTE:  I do hope the very impatient to exit pushy woman in my row (gesturing with her hand for me to move) who obviously did not understand the message imparted by this great “It shouldn’t be all about me” production and who didn’t realize how difficult it is for me to maneuver my cane and wobbly knee got to her couldn’t wait another second appointment on time – even though the exit aisle was packed with departing patrons.  It was like being stuck in a traffic jam and having someone behind me honking for me to move.  So…making room for her to squeeze past me I simply asked her if she was in a rush.  “Yes,” she replied.  “Did you not understand the message imparted by the show?” No reply as she scurried away stuck in the middle of the hoard of happy theatergoers.

Based on an original concept by Jack Viertel.  Very highly recommended. 2 hrs 25 min.  One 15 minute intermission.


Photos:  Deen van Meer

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