Theatre holds a special place in my heart. It’s a place where every emotion is validated, where when you are watching a good show in the darkness of the audience and the brightness of the fully lit stage, you are at your most vulnerable. The actors, no matter how big the character, come off as human. When they get hurt, you have no choice but to want to hug them and tell them everything is OK. The world premiere Broadway-bound musical “The Prom,” playing at the Alliance Theatre through September 25, fits this criteria.
Every song in the show has so much energy, you feel like dancing in the audience. The ensemble is full of well-developed characters who react to everything happening on stage. When they dance, it’s lively, and if there was a mistake, you didn’t see it. Everyone stays in the moment and the overall rhythm feels flawless. The tech in this show is beautiful, set changes run smoothly, the lighting is vibrant and helps to set the mood nicely.
The plot of “The Prom” revolves around Emma, a high school student in small town Indiana who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom. Instead, the town cancels the prom and Broadway actors from New York soon arrive in town, not only to help Emma but their sagging careers as well. This story could’ve been played way differently, (commonly same-sex couples, especially female same-sex couples are over sexualized, supporting some weird idea that sexuality is based solely on sex). But “The Prom” shows us love. Emma, played by Caitlin Kinnunen and her girlfriend Alyssa, played by Anna Grace Barlow have lovely chemistry. When they look at each other you know they aren’t just looking at each other. They really care about each other.
“The Prom” not only brings some new faces to the Alliance stage, the show also has a Broadway star-studded cast. Tony winner Beth Leavel is a queen with an overall presence that can be likened to Liza Minnelli. She makes her big character, egotistical Broadway actress Dee Dee Allen a person. She’s fresh, interesting and alive even as Dee Dee’s career is potentially dying. As Trent Oliver, two-time Tony nominee Christopher Sieber makes the originally stiff and kind of annoying struggling Broadway actor extremely interesting and very relatable to every person who has had to struggle to do what they love. I have to commend Broadway actress and dancer Angie Schworer, who plays Angie. She makes a potentially forgettable character vibrant and when she speaks, you listen. Angie is kind, sensual and an overall lovely person, and I would not have noticed that if it were not for Ms. Schworer.
I love Caitlin Kinnunen as Emma. Emma is bookish and shy, but one of the bravest people you will ever meet. She loves Alyssa. She wants to hold her, sing to her and let her know she loves her. And not in private, but in front of everyone. Even when Alyssa is afraid to come out, Emma stands up for her and takes crap from everyone. This isn’t some story that takes its inspiration from the past either. This is something that many people face today. We have our Emmas, who can afford to not be afraid and be open to everyone, and then we have our Alyssas, who don’t know what to do and are afraid. They both deserve to be equally validated.
With its phenomenal cast and seamless tech, there are so many other points that make this show great. I highly recommend it.
This show and its message will hopefully make it to Broadway. Always remember, you have little control over who you love and when do find someone to love, you have the right to shout it from the rooftops. Or at least dance with them at prom.
“The Prom” runs at the Alliance Theatre through September 25. Click here for ticket info.
Zachari, 15, a student at Decatur High School has a confession: he’s a proud member of his school’s show choir.
Above photo by Greg Mooney for the Alliance Theatre