I had the pleasure of seeing the world premiere musical “The Prom” at the Alliance Theatre on Sept. 17. As a thespian myself, I was completely awestruck. Yes, I’ve seen professional plays before. I’ve seen “Wicked,” “Shrek” and “West Side Story,” but with time, all these great productions had faded into the shadowier recesses of my memory. This show re-illuminated for me why I do musicals and even added a few extra dimensions I had never before considered.
Again and again, I was stunned by the cast’s theatrics. Each person occupying the stage had their own complex identity that was conveyed not just by their lines but also by the actors’ subtle choices, which immediately made you feel that you knew these characters — maybe you had met a couple people just like them in your life. This acting prowess rang true — from Tony-winning actress Beth Leavel’s deliberate and infinitely amusing histrionics as Dee Dee Allen, the washed-up Broadway star desperately clinging to fame, to even Damon J. Gillespie, an ensemble member with a vivacious afro who somehow executed some splendid “hairography” in addition to the show’s crisp choreography.
I was truly starstruck and already began plotting ways to add a vigor to my own character in my school’s upcoming musical. The script also had a life of its own, with so many twists and turns as to leave the audience a little off kilter but always leaning in to the next moment. I like to play the game of anticipating how a show or film will end at the midway mark, but in the case of this musical, I lost. Perhaps the theatrical quality so dazzled me I was a little off my game, but still I was unable to predict what would come next. I consider this a plus.
I did, however, have a couple of concerns. Initially, when seen the show once in previews and again after its official opening, it was as a whole was engaging and inspiring. But this feeling did not hold up upon my second time seeing the musical. Perhaps there was not the same fire in the actors, having performed it countless times already since the show’s arrival at the Alliance, but the word creeping in and threatening to overpower my initial impression was “lackluster.” Though the dancing was still as amazing as the first time I saw it and the same could be said of actors’ voices, the characters, at times, felt mechanic. Shifts between scenes did not feel as seamless, and from time to time, I did mentally checkout from the show to think about the history paper due or the number of hours until dinner.
I am unsure of how much of that can be attributed to execution of the show versus my personal viewing, but with the second act, the cast won me back with a number of heart-touching scenes about inclusion and unity, and a few more catchy tunes that I have been humming in the days since.
Jolisa, 18, is a senior and aspiring performer at Westminster.