By Kimberly Rau
Spring is just around the corner, and that means prom season for most high schoolers…and for anyone who wants to take in the Broadway musical at PPAC this week.
Set in small-town Indiana, “The Prom” centers around Emma, a lesbian from a small town in Indiana, who just wants to take her girlfriend to the senior prom. The PTA has a problem with homosexuality and tries to cancel the prom, making Emma a target for her classmates. There’s also the problem that Emma’s girlfriend Alyssa is not out to her family.
Enter four Broadway actors, two has-beens and two almost-were, who are looking for a social issue to be performative activists over. They make the trek out to Indiana, manage to make the whole thing about them, and somehow, the prom is back on…sort of. The girlfriends are off, though, when Alyssa can’t come through for Emma, but everything wraps up in a predictable, nice manner.
This is a cute show with a nice message and very few surprises, but a whole lot of enjoyable and funny moments. It pokes fun at the self-centeredness of celebrity, small towns and the concept of doing something “nice” as a means of making yourself feel better or look good. It promotes acceptance and has some truly hilarious songs (such as the intentionally cringe-worthy “inclusion” song that is performed by a touring Godspell cast at an Indiana monster truck rally). “Note to self, don’t be gay in Indiana,” Emma sings early in the show, efficiently setting the tone of things.
The cast of this tour is quite talented. Notable performances include Kaden Kearney as Emma, of course, a young talent with a lot of power in their voice, and Courtney Balan as Dee Dee Allen, the longtime Broadway star whose recent performance as Eleanor Roosevelt is panned upon opening. Her comedic timing and singing skills are exceptional. Emily Borromeo, a Brown University graduate, plays Angie Dickinson. Angie is a Roxie Hart wannabe who can’t seem to make it out of the ensemble of Chicago. Her Fosse-style dance number “Zazz” in Act 2 is a great showcase for Borromeo’s dancing and singing skills.
The downsides included a very simple set that at times did not seem terribly stable, and a sound issue that stopped the show in the second act for more than a half an hour before resuming. However, the set is hardly a deal breaker, and, presuming the technical issues have been fully resolved, there’s no reason to skip this show. Some language may make it inappropriate for younger children, but teenagers should enjoy it as much as the adults will. If you’re looking for lighthearted fun with a good message of inclusivity and kindness, “The Prom” is a good bet for you.
The Prom runs through March 13 at the Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St., Providence. Tickets may be obtained at the box office, online at ppacri.org or by calling 401.421.2787. Masks are required throughout the show.