Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The Prom was based on the true story of Constance McMillen, whose high school prom was canceled when the principal learned that Constance planned to attend the event with her girlfriend. In the musical, the story unfolds in a small Indiana town and the central focus is on Emma, a high schooler whose dreams of a memorable prom are shattered when the PTA learns of her intention to bring a female date, so they cancel the event. Enter a group of Broadway performers, including the uproarious duo Barry Glickman and Dee Dee Allen, whose careers are in the dumps and who are desperate for redemption. They think that latching onto Emma's plight will help boost their sagging profiles and score them social media points, good press, and credibility. As the duo and three of their friends descend upon Emma's town, armed with their thespian egos and a newfound mission to champion inclusivity, they learn a few things about themselves while also rallying behind Emma.
While The Prom may not have had a long run on Broadway, it's a well-crafted musical with a relevant plot, a rich range of fun and realistic characters, and many toe-tapping tunes. The book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin manages to walk the delicate balance between addressing a serious social issue and delivering laugh-out-loud moments. The characters, from the self-absorbed actors to the resilient Emma and her friends, are fully fleshed out, providing realism and depth to the plot. The score with lyrics by Beguelin and music by Matthew Sklar features rich ballads and hilarious comic numbers; Beguelin's lyrics include some fantastic and witty rhymes. The result is a musical that entertains while tackling important themes with finesse.
Stephanie Likes' direction is spotless and derives warm, funny, and realistic portrayals from the entire cast. She gracefully navigates the challenges of presenting the mature themes in a youth theatre setting. Her staging makes great use of the entire stage space and, because she uses the two side aprons for the scenes set in Emma's bedroom and a hotel room, the scene changes are swift and never slow down the forward moving momentum of the plot. The creative elements are good, with the set design by Peter Bish and Chase Budden simple but effective, Dale Nakagawa's lighting warm, and costumes by Diana Likes character appropriate (the outfits for Barry and Dee Dee are fantastic). Elise Kurbat's music direction delivers fantastic vocals throughout.
Hailey Laidig's portrayal of Emma is wonderful. She beautifully captures the essence of the character, and her warm singing voice infuses each song with emotional resonance. She forms authentic connections and relationships with the entire cast. It's a warm, bright, and winning performance. As Dee Dee and Barry, Nora Palermo and Charlie Hall, respectively, create a comical duo who add both levity and heart to the production. Palermo's self-unaware Dee Dee and Hall's endearing portrayal of the older gay mentor bring a delightful dynamic to the stage. Palermo's singing voice is superb and both she and Hall have impeccable comic timing. After seeing Palermo as Mrs. Lovett in Greasepaint's Sweeney Todd and Hall in several roles, including Man in Chair in The Drowsy Chaperone at Desert Stages, both earlier this year, I'm really impressed with their ability to continually create realistic characters that are decades older than their actual ages.
Olivia Feldman and Declan Skaggs are great as Dee Dee and Barry's friends Angie and Trent. Skaggs is endearing, warm, and playful and Feldman brings a fun, catty sense of humor to her role. Both get several moments to shine, including Skaggs' rousing number, "Love Thy Neighbor," and Feldman delivers some fantastic Bob Fosse inspired dance moves in the comical crowd pleaser "Zazz" (Laurie Trygg's choreography is great, varied, and danced well by the large cast.) Evan Kaushesh is warm and winning as the school principal; Sydney Hassler is charming as Emma's closeted girlfriend, Alyssa; and Katelyn Sullivan does will with the unfortunate task of playing the show's main antagonist, the school PTA president who just also happens to be Allysa's mother.
The Prom is not just a fun and funny musical comedy, it's a celebration of tolerance, acceptance, and the power of being true to oneself. Greasepaint's production succeeds as a charming, witty, and moving experience that should resonate with audiences of all ages. In a world that feels divided, The Prom reminds us that laughter, love, and acceptance are common things we all share and strive for; they are the things that should ultimately unite us.
The Prom runs through December 17, 2023, at Greasepaint Youth Theatre, 7020 E. 2nd Street, Scottsdale AZ. For tickets and information, please call 480-949-7529 or visit www.greasepaint.org.
Director: Stephanie Likes