Out of Town
The Prom – Toe-Tapping Tunes Make The Show
Dust off the mylar balloons and wrist corsages Chicago, for one week only is time to attend The Prom. No smelly gymnasium or dated themes required, this prom is full of high energy dance numbers and a litany of toe-tapping tunes that will stay knocking around your head long after leaving the Cadillac Palace Theatre. The national tour of The Prom is landing for a brief engagement in the heart of the theatre district housed in the Loop. Painted with very broad strokes and including dozens of theatrical in-jokes at the expense of Wicked, Chicago, Dear Evan Hansen, Carrie, Godspell, and so many others,there are some legitimate teaching moments about inclusivity and the importance of arts education sandwiched between laughs.
This silly yet affective musical comedy is loosely based on a true story. Back in 2010, a high school student in Mississippi intended to go to her prom, dressed in a tuxedo with her girlfriend on her arm. As a result, the school board overreacted, banning her from attending. When this decision was challenged in court, the response was banning the prom altogether. To add insult to injury, the parents of the other students quietly organized a “secret prom” to avoid media attention. When that spectacularly backfired, in stepped a team of celebrities to help. Members of the band Green Day, N*SYNC’s Lance Bass, Cat Cora and more rallied together via social media to sponsored a “Second-Chance” prom where all could attend with no homophobic backlash. Tweaking the story a bit, The Prom is about a quartet of Broadway performers seeking much needed career rehab who elect to travel to conservative Edgewater, Indiana to aid a lesbian student banned from attending her high school prom with her girlfriend. Art imitating life, as it were.
The true crux of the story focuses on high school student Emma (Kaden Kearney) who has unintentionally created a maelstrom of controversy. She simply wants to attend the prom with her girlfriend. Living in conservative Indiana, she is immediately banned from the dance. Bullied by her classmates, abandoned by her parents and vilified by both the surrounding community and the PTA, she was exasperated and near the end of her rope. At the same time a new musical is making its debut on Broadway. The fictional Eleanor! The Eleanor Roosevelt Story stars (fictional) two-time Tony Award winner, Dee Dee Allen (a fabulous Courtney Balan) and (fictional) Drama Desk Award winner Barry Glickman (a scene-stealing Patrick Wetzel). Well, after a series of quick & horrible reviews, opening night quickly turns into closing night. The dynamic duo of self-absorbed narcissists quickly joined by lifelong chorus girl, Angie Dickensen (the fantastically flexible Emily Borromeo) a lifelong Bob Fosse afficiando who will no longer play second fiddle to this week’s Chicago Roxie Hart stunt cast, Tina Louise of Gilligan’s Island fame, and “esteemed” Julliard graduate and cater waiter, Trent Oliver (Bud Weber). Over cocktails, the four read about Emma’s dilemma on Twitter and decide only they can help her, change the world and, most importantly to them, resuscitate their tarnished images in one fail swoop.
The remaining cast all come into play once this over-the-top quartet arrive in Indiana. Sweet Alyssa Green (Kalyn West) is the over-achieving head of the Student Council as well as, GASP! the closeted secret girlfriend of Emma. Her mother, a villainous Marjorie Taylor Greene type, your basic manipulative, bigoted and homophobic monster of a mother and human, also happens to be the President of the PTA, played with moustache twirling vigor by Ashanti J’Aria. Shavey Brown is the flamboyant and flappable Sheldon Saperstein, the Broadway Press Agent and lastly Sinclair Mitchel as Mr. Hawkins, the noble High School Principal and potential paramour for Balan’s Dee Dee. Their date at “Apples and Bees” make that Applebee’s, will charm all.
By the show’s conclusion, secrets are revealed, dreams crushed and revived, a battle of wits plays out between the State’s attorney, principal & PTA and a monster truck rally featuring a Broadway sing-a-log keeps the pace chugging along. Finally, Emma, borrowing a page right out of Dear Evan Hansen, uploads a video explaining her position and the fallout that soon followed in song. Of course the video goes viral, connecting with a generation of ostracized peers, and a new inclusive prom for all the LGBTQIA+ kids across the state is planned. With a title like The Prom, there just has to be a happy ending.
The Prom was the 2019 Drama Desk Award winner for Outstanding Musical, besting Be More Chill, Tootsie, The Hello Girls and Rags Parkland Sings the Songs of the Future. A month later, finding itself up for the biggie, a Tony nominee for Best Musical opposite Hadestown, Beetlejuice, Tootsie and Ain’t Too Proud- The Life and Times of the Temptations. While Hadestown took the gold home that night, the celebration of The Prom wasn’t over quite yet. In 2020, Ryan Murphy directed the Netflix movie of the same name, streaming during the pandemic, with no less than Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, pre-Oscar Award winner Ariana DeBose, Andrew Rannells and Kerry Washington leading the cast.
The Prom is directed and choreographed with fervent energy by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw. The athletic choreography will impress and exhaust. A little bit boyband meets Bring It On: The Musical, the fresh-faced ensemble earns kudos for their collective powerful synchronized hip-hop dance moves. Original music written by Matthew Skyler with lyrics by Chad Beguelin resulted in a series of catchy tunes including “Changing Lives”, “It’s Not About Me”, “Dance With You”, “Zazz” and “It’s Time To Dance”. Most of Scott Pask’s scenic design was run-of-the-mill backdrops, totally eclipsed by the grandeur of neighboring shows, Moulin Rouge and Six, currently knocking audiences out just down the street. Ann Roth and Matthew Pachtman’s costuming, a series of Easter candy pastel mini-baby doll dresses as prom couture and young men’s plaid suits, teen magazines accurate.
While not the greatest musical currently playing in town, The Prom is certainly a night of fun. With tolerance themes at its heart, this isn’t a show with a dry political agenda pushed down an unsuspecting audience member’s throat. The jokes, of which there are many, pulls their punches with equal opportunity. The surface charms of The Prom far outweighing any of the story’s shortcomings. I challenge anyone to not be smiling by the show’s final explosive dance number. Staying through the energetic curtain call, an absolute must.
Broadway in Chicago presents The Prom is now playing through April 24, 2022 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre
Florence Welch, Martyna Majok, Rachel Chavkin and More On New Musical Gatsby Coming To A.R.T
Florence Welch Photo by De Wilde
Producers Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, Jordan Roth, and American Repertory Theater(A.R.T.) at Harvard University announced today that Gatsby, a brand-new musical stage adaptation of the legendary F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, will make its highly anticipated World Premiere at A.R.T. in 2024, and will be directed by Tony Award® winner Rachel Chavkin and choreographed by Tony Award winner Sonya Tayeh.
Gatsby will feature music by Florence Welch, the Grammy Award-nominated international rock star of Florence + the Machine and Thomas Bartlett, the Oscar and Grammy Award nominee, with lyrics by Ms. Welch, and a book by Pulitzer Prize® winner Martyna Majok.
Gatsby will be produced at American Repertory Theater by special arrangement with Amanda Ghost and Len Blavatnik for Unigram/Access Entertainment, and Jordan Roth, in association with Robert Fox. Hannah Giannoulis serves as co-producer.
American Repertory Theater (Diane Paulus, Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director; Kelvin Dinkins, Jr., Executive Director) at Harvard University produces groundbreaking work to catalyze dialogue and transformation. Tony Award-winning and nominated productions include Jagged Little Pill; Waitress; Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812; All the Way; The Glass Menagerie; Pippin; Once; and The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Its revival of 1776, a co-production with Roundabout Theatre Company, is currently touring nationally. Learn more at AmericanRepertoryTheater.org.
Additional Gatsby news will be announced soon.
Reading For Hunter Bell, Jeff Bowen and Ann McNamee New Musical Other World
Other World, a new musical with an original score and story by Tony Award Nominee Hunter Bell (book), Obie Award winner Jeff Bowen (music and lyrics), and singer-songwriter and author Ann McNamee(music and lyrics) will present invite-only staged readings on Thursday, March 16 and Friday, March 17 at Open Jar Studios in New York City. With direction by Jenn Rapp (The Illusionists Director/Choreographer) and choreography by Karla Puno Garcia (Tick, Tick … BOOM! film, Kennedy Center Honors), Other World is being developed in creative consultation with the five-time Academy Award winning WĒTĀ Workshop (The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies).
One moment Sri and Lorraine are in a garage on Earth. The next, they’re unexpectedly transported into Sri’s favorite video game, Other World. Now trapped in the game and in a race against the clock, this unlikely pair must work together, discover their inner strengths, and connect with gifted gamers and astonishing avatars in order to survive and find a way home. With art direction provided by Academy Award–winning Wētā Workshop (The Lord of the Rings, Avatar), this heartfelt, humorous musical explores the connections we make on- and off-line, while celebrating the families and friendships we need to thrive in any world. Join us for this spectacular, original, otherwordly adventure. Your journey begins…now!
The cast features Micah Beauvais (Sri), Bella Coppola (Lorraine), Ryan Andes (Roman/Antagon), Madeleine Doherty (Myra), Kaden Kearney (Tris), Brandi Porter (Temula), Mikaela Secada (Jamie), with Sojouner Brown, Elena Camp, Sommer Carbuccia, Laura Dadap, Seth Rettberg, Sherisse Springer, Blake Stadnik, Levin Valayil, and Jason Williams.
The creative team for the developmental presentation also features music direction by Amanda Morton (KPOP), casting by Paul Hardt Casting (Once Upon A One More Time), video design by Khristian Bork (Coco live at the Hollywood Bowl, Danny Elfman – Coachella), sound design by Hidenori Nakajo (Octet), and general management by Alchemy Production Group (The Music Man, Come From Away). The Executive Producer is Lauren Tucker/Alchemy Production Group.
For more information about the show, visit https://otherworldmusical.com/
Hunter Bell (Book) earned an OBIE Award, a Drama League nomination, a GLAAD Media nomination, and a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical, all for the original Broadway musical [title of show]. Other credits include the books for Silence! The Musical (Lucille Lortel Nomination, Outstanding Musical), Now. Here. This. (Vineyard Theatre), Bellobration! (Ringling Bros. Circus), Villains Tonight! (Disney Cruise Lines), Found (Atlantic Theater, Drama Desk Nomination, Outstanding Book of a Musical), and Julie Andrews’ The Great American Mousical (Goodspeed). He is a co-creator of the web series “the [title of show] show” and has developed television with ABC Studios/ABC Television. Hunter is a proud graduate and distinguished alumnus of Webster University’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts, a member of the Dramatists Guild, Writers Guild, a MacDowell Fellow, and currently serves on the board of the Educational Theatre Association and Educational Theatre Foundation, national arts advocacy organizations representing theatre teachers and students.
Jeff Bowen (Music and Lyrics) wrote the music and lyrics for and starred in the Broadway musical [title of show] (OBIE Award) and Now. Here. This. Additionally, he has written music and lyrics for Now. Here. This. (Vineyard Theatre), Villains Tonight! (Walt Disney Company), and the theme songs for the web series “the [title of show] show” and “Squad ’85.” His songs can be heard on the original cast albums of [title of show], Now. Here. This., as well as Broadway Bares Openingsand Over the Moon: The Broadway Lullaby Project. He is a proud member of ASCAP, AEA, Writers Guild, Dramatists Guild, and the National Audubon Society. He serves as a faculty member of the National Theatre Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center.
Ann McNamee(Music and Lyrics) received a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in Music Theory from Yale University, leading to a twenty-year career in teaching, choral conducting, and music research at Swarthmore College. After retiring as Professor Emerita, Ann composed for, sang, played keys, and toured with the Flying Other Brothers and Moonalice, both bands led by her husband Roger McNamee. She composed the majority of the songs on the Moonalice album that was part of T Bone Burnett’s nomination for Producer of the Year at the 2009 Grammy Awards. For the Lilith Fair tour in 2010, she fronted the band Ann Atomic. Another highlight was opening up for U2 at the Oakland Coliseum in November 2011. She retired from touring in 2012 in order to collaborate on musical theater projects full-time. Ann’s outside interests include co-founding the Haight Street Art Center, a community center/poster music/print shop to celebrate rock poster art in the Bay Area.
Out of Town
The Avett Brothers Musical Swept Away Sails Into Arena Stage This Fall
Swept Away, the new musical written by Tony Award winner John Logan (book) and “America’s biggest roots band” (Rolling Stone), The Avett Brothers (music and lyrics), was announced today as part of the 2023/24 season at Arena Stage, Washington, DC (Molly Smith, Artistic Director; Edgar Dobie, Executive Producer). Performances will begin November 25 and will continue through December 30. Tony Award winner Michael Mayer will direct the production as he had last year in the musical’s sold-out world premiere at Berkeley Rep. The Arena Stage engagement will feature an updated score with additional, never-before-heard songs. Swept Away is produced by Special Arrangement with Matthew Masten, Sean Hudock, and Madison Wells Live.
Swept Away is set in 1888, off the coast of New Bedford, MA. When a violent storm sinks their whaling ship, the four surviving souls — a young man in search of adventure, his older brother who has sworn to protect him, a captain at the end of a long career at sea, and a worldly first mate who has fallen from grace — each face a reckoning: How far will I go to stay alive? And can I live with the consequences?
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Producer Edgar Dobie, is a national center dedicated to American voices and artists. Arena Stage produces plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays and impacting the lives of over 10,000 students annually through its work in community engagement. Now in its eighth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000. arenastage.org
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