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Listen: The Politics of Musical Comedy in Broadway’s ‘The Prom’

Back when “The Prom” opened on Broadway in the fall, critics swooned over the musical comedy with a message. But for a while there, the creators had begun to think that their show, about the fight to allow a teenager to take her same-sex partner to her prom, might be addressing what would soon become a non-issue.

“During the Obama administration, to name names, things were going quite well. We started to think ‘Yeah, this is not going to be an issue by the time we get to Broadway,'” recalled Tony-winning writer Bob Martin, who appeared with “The Prom” star Beth Leavel on the latest episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast. “Which is amazing to think about, that the world, or at least America, was in that state at that point. And we actually embraced the positive wave of inclusiveness. We had speeches in the show about how history has changed and you have to choose to be on the right side of history. … And then things changed dramatically. The world got darker.”

On “Stagecraft,” Martin and his frequent collaborator Leavel (“The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Elf”) discussed finding both the humor and the heart in a show that weaves politics in with its showstoppers. They went on to discuss the strong reactions — positive and negative — to the production’s groundbreaking appearance on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade telecast.

The duo also dropped a few hints about future projects — including a possible sequel to the show that won both of them Tonys, “Drowsy Chaperone.”

“Basically, we thought, well, it’s time for ‘Drowsy’ to come back,” Martin said. “It’s been more than 10 years. But instead of just bringing it back to Broadway, we thought, well, it’s ‘Drowsy Chaperone,’ it’s an unusual show. So why don’t we have Man in Chair present another show? So we’re writing on the other show within the show. Because of course Man in Chair would have a lot to say about the contemporary world and the state of musical theater at this time.”

New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on iTunesStitcher, or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

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