×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Atlanta Theater Review: ‘The Prom,’ Directed by Casey Nicholaw

With:
Beth Leavel, Christopher Sieber, Brooks Ashmanskas, Martin Moran, Anna Grace Barlow, Caitlin Kinnunen, Courtenay Collins, Josh Lamon, Angie Schworer, Damon J. Gillespie, Josh Franklin, Shelby Finnie, Kevin Csolak, DeMarius R. Copes, Colins Conley, Mary Antonini, Sheldon Henry, Becca Lee, Kate Marilley, Isabelle McCalla, Chris Medlin, Becca Petersen, Brendon Stimson, Teddy Toye, Alena Watters, Michelle West.

You might wince at the prospect of a group of Broadway egotists landing in a conservative town to fight for a teen lesbian to bring her date to the prom — but it turns out to be a happy merging of disparate worlds in “The Prom,” a loopy, loving and joyous musical receiving its world premiere at Atlanta’s Alliance Theater. Think “Fun Home” meets “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

“Drowsy” co-creator Bob Martin co-scripted this very funny, tenderhearted show with Chad Beguelin (“Elf,” “Aladdin”), once again tapping into the power of positive showtunes — and the ways they can inspire, energize and comfort. Director Casey Nicholaw (“Aladdin,” “Something Rotten!”), who helped bring a balance of sweet Broadway aspiration to “South Park” attitude in “The Book of Mormon,” corrals a crackerjack cast that mixes outrageous ham with schmaltz. Don’t be surprised if “The Prom” gets a Broadway corsage.

A quartet of “bloated relics of the theater,” desperate to be more likable, try to change their image by fighting against “a little injustice that we can drive to.” This self-obsessed troupe is led by diva Dee Dee (Beth Leavel, pulling out more stops than Dorothy Loudon in her prime), her flamboyant co-star Barry (Brooks Ashmanskas, “gayer than a box of wigs”), forever-chorine Angie (Angie Schworer); Juilliard fave-turned-waiter Trent (Christopher Sieber) and publicist Sheldon (Josh Lamon), who might not deliver Jimmy Fallon but can book a monster truck rally.

The proceedings are propelled by Nicholaw’s energetic and witty dances, plus a pleasing score by Matthew Sklar (with Beguelin supplying the bright lyrics) that refresh showtune templates with nods to Kander & Ebb, Stephen Schwartz and Jerry Herman.

Keeping the initial one-joke concept from veering completely off the rails are the human characterizations of some of the folks in Heaven, Indiana: Caitlin Kinnunen’s Emma — the plucky-but-anxious gay teen who just wants to dance with the person she loves; her still-closeted cheerleader girlfriend Alyssa (Anna Grace Barlow); and their sympathetic principal Mr. Hawkins (Martin Moran, evoking Man in the Chair from “Chaperone” with his loving fan song to Dee Dee at an Applebee’s, “We Look to the Stars.”)

Transformation is the emotional thread deftly woven throughout, in the town’s shifting attitude toward Emma in “Love Thy Neighbor” (though that old saw of a theme could use some freshening); in Emma finding her inner “zazz,” thanks to Schworer’s fantastic leggy lesson; even in Dee Dee’s attempt at caring for others — while still staying in the spotlight — in the belter “The Lady’s Improving.”

Not everyone will catch the show’s plentiful Broadway references to “Carrie,” Fosse and Bernadette — there’s even a costume homage to William Ivey Long — but that doesn’t matter much when the gags are played by a group of pros having a field day with show-biz indulgences.

The musical also nicely taps into the power of social media, the importance of the courts and the generational shift in attitudes about gays, movingly expressed by Emma and Barry. In the end, you can’t help but share Ashmanskas’ boundless exuberance when he, too, finally gets asked to the prom. That’s when worlds merge, into the happy bliss of Musical Comedy Heaven, Indiana.

Atlanta Theater Review: 'The Prom,' Directed by Casey Nicholaw

Alliance Theater, Atlanta; 750 seats; $95 top. Opened, reviewed Sept. 7, 2016. Continues through Sept. 25. Running time: 2 HOURS, 25 MIN.

Production: An Alliance Theatre presentation in association with Dori Berinstein and Bill Damaschke of a musical in two acts, based on an original concept by Jack Viertel, with book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin.

Creative: Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. Sets, Scott Pask; costumes, Ann Roth and Matthew Pachtman; lighting, Kenneth Posner; sound, Peter Hylenski; music director, Mary-Mitchell Campbell; orchestrations, Larry Hochman; music and dance arranger, Glen Kelly; production stage manager, Holly R. Coombs.

Cast: Beth Leavel, Christopher Sieber, Brooks Ashmanskas, Martin Moran, Anna Grace Barlow, Caitlin Kinnunen, Courtenay Collins, Josh Lamon, Angie Schworer, Damon J. Gillespie, Josh Franklin, Shelby Finnie, Kevin Csolak, DeMarius R. Copes, Colins Conley, Mary Antonini, Sheldon Henry, Becca Lee, Kate Marilley, Isabelle McCalla, Chris Medlin, Becca Petersen, Brendon Stimson, Teddy Toye, Alena Watters, Michelle West.

More Legit

  • Audra McDonald Frankie and Johnny

    Listen: How Audra McDonald Faced Her Fear in 'Frankie and Johnny'

    When producers offered Audra McDonald a role in “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” opposite Michael Shannon, she immediately said yes. Then she remembered the nude scene. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “Hell, yes, there was trepidation,” the Tony-winning actress said on the new episode of Stagecraft, Variety’s theater podcast. “I was [...]

  • A Strange Loop review

    Off Broadway Review: 'A Strange Loop'

    “No one cares about a writer who is struggling to write,” sings the anxiety-ridden lead character in Michael R. Jackson’s sometimes exhilarating, sometimes exasperating new musical, “A Strange Loop,” at Playwrights Horizons. The abundantly talented Jackson takes the otherwise tired trope of the young, poor and sensitive artist trying to discover his true self and [...]

  • Richard E Grant Everybody's Talking About

    Richard E. Grant to Play Former Drag Queen in 'Everybody's Talking About Jamie'

    Oscar-nominated actor Richard E. Grant will portray a former drag queen and mentor in “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” the movie adaptation of the British stage musical. “Catastrophe” co-creator and star Sharon Horgan and “Happy Valley” star Sarah Lancashire have also joined the film. Max Harwood will play the titular role of Jamie, a role inspired [...]

  • The Secret Life of Bees review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Secret Life of Bees'

    There’s a sweet sense of sisterhood that’s simply divine in “The Secret Life of Bees,” the heartwarming new musical at the Atlantic Theater Company based on Sue Monk Kidd’s bestselling 2002 coming-of-age novel, set in South Carolina in 1964 amid Civil Rights struggles. (A 2008 film adaptation starred Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah.) The feeling [...]

  • 10 Comics to Watch

    Variety Announces 10 Comics to Watch for 2019

    Variety has chosen its 10 Comics to Watch for 2019. The honorees will be profiled in the July 18 issue of Variety and at the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal at a cocktail party on Thursday, July 25, followed by a panel and showcase on Friday, July 26. The events are sponsored by Cohen & Gardner LLP. The [...]

  • Vanessa Hudgens So You Think You

    Vanessa Hudgens, Hailey Kilgore to Star in Reading of 'The Notebook' Musical

    Vanessa Hudgens and Tony-nominee Hailey Kilgore are joining an upcoming reading of Ingrid Michaelson’s stage adaptation of “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks. Tony nominee Michael Greif is set to direct the reading, which will open June 23 at Vassar College’s Martel Theater as part of their Powerhouse Theater season. Kilgore will star as the younger [...]

  • Moulin Rouge director Alex Timbers

    'Beetlejuice,' 'Moulin Rouge!' Director Alex Timbers on Creating Worlds on Broadway

    In the past year, Alex Timbers has directed the Tony-nominated “Beetlejuice” and the stage adaptation of “Moulin Rouge!” (which begins previews June 28 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre). Here, he reflects on his most recent projects and the challenges of bringing two iconic movie musicals to Broadway within a year.  Both your musicals live in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content