Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations
The 2018 musical, with a book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, music by Matthew Sklar, and lyrics by Beguelin, follows a group of self-absorbed Broadway actors whoin a bid to prove that they aren't narcissistsarrive uninvited in a small Midwestern town to support Emma (Kaden Kearney), a lesbian senior at a high school that has canceled the prom rather than let her bring a female date. Yes, lessons are learned and hearts are warmed, but not in a preachy way, always with a sense of being in on the joke.
Director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw capably depicts the two sides of the production. The full-cast dance numbersat a Sardi's opening-night party, in a convenience store parking lot, and of course at a promobubble, well supported by lighting designer Natasha Katz's imaginative use of color, but the small moments for one or two performers land just as strongly.
Kearney, who uses they/them pronouns, is a real find as Emma. Their performance is radiant, ranging from the giddy joy of unexpected love, through crushing despair and justified anger, to navigating her place in a sometimes difficult world, all with a quietly moving singing voice.
On the flashier side, Courtney Balan dazzles as Dee Dee Allen (a role she understudied on Broadway), a two-time Tony Award-winning actress who believes fame and talent give her permission to hijack Emma's situation to improve her personal brand. At her level are Patrick Wetzel as Dee Dee's sometime co-star Barry Glickman, gay, Jewish, and proud of it; Bud Weber as Trent Oliver, who graduated from Juilliard but is best known for starring in a decades-old television sitcom; and Emily Borromeo as Angie, a longtime (and long-legged) chorus dancer with a thing for Bob Fosse moves.
Scott Pask's scenic design is serviceable rather than showy, but the costumes designed by Ann Roth and Matthew Pachtman pick up the slack.
The Prom runs through January 16, 2022, in the Eisenhower Theater at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC. For tickets and information, please call 800-444-1324 or 202-467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.org. For more information on the tour, visit theprommusical.com/tour/.
Book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin
Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw