I miss Broadway. And while Hamilton certainly helped fill the void during this pandemic, the historical rapfest isn’t one of those big, splashy, colorful broadway musicals that you serendipitously try to catch after standing in the discount line at TKTS. The Prom fits that particular playbill. Director Ryan Murphy (TV’s Glee) saw the show on Broadway and immediately knew he could adapt it to the big screen (or small screen, as the case may be). Add a hefty dose of star power, make it available on Netflix, and let the party – or prom – commence.
The Prom stars Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman and the lesser-known but immensely talented Andrew Rannells (Tony-nominated for The Book of Mormon) as four self-absorbed Broadway actors who decide to become celebrity activists to boost their public image. They find their ’cause célèbre’ in small-town Indiana, where High School student Emma Nolan (newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman) wants to bring her closeted girlfriend (Ariana DeBose) to prom. The principal (Keegan-Michael Key) supports holding an “inclusive” prom, but the uptight head of the PTA (Kerry Washington) will have none of that!
While their initial intentions for the Midwest roadtrip (hitching a ride with a touring company of Godspell) are less than altruistic, the foursome end up heavily invested in Emma and her simple wish to celebrate who she is. The music is catchy if not altogether memorable (though on repeat viewing it definitely grows on you), Streep delivers some deliciously witty dialogue, Kidman and Rannells make the most of their supporting roles, and Corden does a surprising amount of the emotional heavy lifting.
The storyline – and movie – has a Hairspray meets Footloose kinda vibe, delivering a heartfelt message about acceptance in a Glee-ful package filled with the type of song and dance that makes Broadway theater so appealing (at least to me and my nieces!). The Prom is a holiday gift for broadway musical fans who’ve already seen Hamilton and are anxiously awaiting the film adaptations of In The Heights and (Spielberg’s) West Side Story now slated for summer and winter of 2021.
The Prom is in select theaters and premieres on Netflix December 11.