‘The Prom’ Could Dance at the Oscars With Meryl Streep Rapping Her Way to Another Nomination

The musical adaptation could hit the zeitgeist and find its way to Academy attention.

The Prom
Courtesy of Netflix

Director Ryan Murphy’s upcoming adaptation of the Broadway musical “The Prom” is timely, making strides for diversity and inclusion. With an all-star ensemble and two breakout stars in Jo Ellen Pellman and Ariana DeBose, the Netflix feature is in prime position to hit the zeitgeist when viewers begin streaming it in December.

“The Prom” can easily be envisioned as the movie that runs on repeat by high schoolers everywhere. If it were released in theaters under normal circumstances, it would have all the makings of a $150 million hit for a studio. From an awards season perspective, the movie is an obvious frontrunner for the Golden Globes comedy or musical races. Still, it can also make serious headway with the Academy voters, including best picture. Clearly Murphy’s best directing effort yet, it will be fascinating to see how the Academy, along with the general public, respond. I would expect its noble cast to be a leading contender for a SAG ensemble nomination, which hits right in the heart of the actor’s branch.

Meryl Streep is irresistible as Dee Dee Allen, which exceeds her only other Oscar-nominated musical work “Into the Woods.” Since she’s begun her long-loving relationship with the Academy in 1979, she’s never gone more than 5 years without a nomination. Her last was for 2018’s “The Post” from Steven Spielberg. I’ve learned a lesson in my 15-plus years of prognosticating to not bet against Streep. With that said, her chances for securing her 22nd Oscar nomination are looking good, which would further extend her record. An interesting note is of her 21 mentions from the Academy, only four of those films have come with best picture nominations or wins: 1978’s “The Deer Hunter,” 1979’s “Kramer vs. Kramer,” 1985’s “Out of Africa” and 2018’s  “The Post.” Furthermore, there have been three films that received best picture nominations, but Streep did not. Her 1977 feature debut “Julia,” 2002’s “The Hours” (she was nominated in supporting actress for “Adaptation” the same year), and 2019’s “Little Women.”

In her film debut, Pellman holds her own remarkably well next to the acclaimed veteran actor. Although a long shot for a best actress nomination, she could crack the Globe lineup as Nikki Blonsky did in her debut for 2007’s “Hairspray.”

When it comes to Emmy-winner James Corden, there’s a plethora of astounding work in the lead actor Oscar race from Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) to Steven Yeun (“Minari”), with many others in between. Garnering plenty of laughs and having big, emotional moments, a road to the Academy Awards will be difficult. However, he could be able to land his first Golden Globe nomination.

The 29-year-old newcomer DeBose is on her way to a remarkable career. As one of the only Latinx actresses in a major film this year, the Afro-Puerto Rican is particularly impactful, setting up what could be a big year ahead. After appearing in “Hamilton” on Disney Plus, she’ll play Rita Moreno’s Oscar-winning role of Anita in Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story” next year.

Keegan-Michael Key and Andrew Rannells are deliciously charming in their roles, but both lack the quintessential “Oscar scene” that gets actors shortlisted by AMPAS.

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James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Keegan-Michael Key in Ryan Murphy’s “The Prom” MELINDA SUE GORDON/NETFLIX

It’s been 11 years since we’ve seen Nicole Kidman in a movie musical (“Nine”) and nearly 20 years since her finest performance ever in “Moulin Rouge.” After narrowly missing an Oscar nomination for her SAG-nominated work in “Bombshell” last year, she could be an inclusion that surprises in supporting actress, even if some aren’t expecting it. It also helps that the supporting actress field doesn’t have an abundance of “A-typical” Oscar fodder.

“The Prom” will be a formidable contender in several artisan categories. When Murphy found out the team couldn’t shoot the film on Broadway, he didn’t see how he could proceed. Netflix’s response was “We’ll build Broadway,” and that they did. In a beautiful recreation of all its theatrical splendor, best production design could be a no-brainer as it’s one of the film’s most impressive attributes. Emmy-winning costume designer Lou Eyrich creates bright and colorful threads, and like other modern musicals like “La La Land,” she could find traction.

The aural categories like sound could maneuver swiftly through the awards season, but the film’s best chances at gold are in best original song. The end credit number “Wear Your Crown,” written by Adam Anders, Peer Astrom, Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, is wholly pleasant and is performed by all the female cast members, even featuring a rap sequence by Meryl Streep. And how fun it is.

“The Prom” adds to Netflix’s robust arsenal of awards contenders this year. With “Mank,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and possibly “Da 5 Bloods” and “The Midnight Sky,” the streamer could set a record for receiving the most best picture nominations in a single year by a studio.

The musical genre has had success with the Academy in the past. Prior winners have included “The Sound of Music” and “West Side Story.” Rob Marshall’s “Chicago” from 2002 is the last winner in the top category. Only 2012’s “Les Misérables” and 2016’s “La La Land” have found recognition in the best picture since then.

Visit THE AWARDS HUB to see the full list of contenders by category.

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