Spoiler warning: This contains moderate spoilers for The Prom. I say moderate because it’s a thoroughly predictable plot and you’ll be able to guess what happens at any point anyways so saying these are “true” spoilers feels hollow.
The Prom received a lot of publicity after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for having a live same sex kiss. It’s always good when there is broader representation in all types of media, simply put. There is also a lot to like about the show itself—unfortunately, as much as I liked the show when I saw it, the more I thought about it afterwards left me with a sour taste in my mouth. When The Prom is at its best, it’s an incredibly fun, humorous show full of energy that had my head bopping and my foot tapping. At its worse, the musical is a preachy show that feels thin.
We’ll start with the high notes. First, as I said, representation is always good. Showing a young lesbian couple is a good thing, simply put. Casey Nicholaw is also an incredibly fun director—and there is some truly funny content in this show. The satirizing of the liberal Broadway performer trying to be a savior of people who don’t necessarily need saving is great. This is strongest in a moment when you realize that everything is almost resolved in the very beginning before the stars barge in and start mucking everything up. They are contrasted with a very down to earth Midwestern principal from the high school in question who works as a solid straight man to their absurdity. The first act is side splittingly funny before ending on an emotional punch. The second act goes for a lot more heart and loses some of the humor in the process, but I laughed heartily at many points.
There is also some really fun musicality in the show. The dancing is good, and there are some songs that are an absolute blast. I will be listening to the cast album—probably quite a lot. Specifically, a song that the Broadway stars sing at a monster truck rally about acceptance had my abs hurting from the impromptu laugh workout they were receiving throughout the entirety of the song.
The show was not perfect though. I am a firm believer that nothing is off limits in terms of humor. That isn’t to say we should celebrate and defend every single bad joke that is made (we shouldn’t—people make awful jokes all the time), but if someone is able to be incredibly clever in their humor, it should be commended. On the flip side, this often leaves me annoyed when low hanging fruit is the subject of jokes that don’t feel particularly clever.
The Prom works best when it is satirizing the New York elite because that is who Broadway is and that’s (mostly) who the Broadway audience is. The portrayals of the Midwesterners as stupid and backwards didn’t hit as well for me. This is really exacerbated in the second act when the New Yorkers learn the error of their ways and do actually teach the Midwesterners the error of their ways. The Midwest is skewered as stupid and backwards and only learns its way through the children listening to a Broadway star. The parents in the Midwest have no similar redemptive arc. It just feels lazy. This is not to say that many parts of America have lots of very, very real issues. Of course they do. But so does New York—treating New York as the shining bastion of correctness, as it feels like the second act does, just feels thin and hollow.
Overall, I liked The Prom. I was annoyed with the second act, and I think the comedic parts of the show really outshine the heart for the most part. The first act was an incredible time—the emotional moments even hit more. I hope The Prom has a long run on Broadway, not necessarily because it was perfect. I hope it has a long run because I do like seeing more representation and it was much more fun than not. That is a good combination for a show to have.