BWW Album Review: THE PROM is the Perfect Blend of Glitter, Confetti, and Heart
With moxie, sequins, and indefatigable whimsy, Sony Masterworks Broadway's The Prom (Original Broadway Cast Recording) perfectly captures the mirth of the heartwarming Broadway production. Masterfully blending Matthew Sklar's toe-tapping score, Chad Beguelin's rib-tickling and heartfelt lyrics, and the stellar performances of the cast, this album is as charming as it is mesmerizing.
A story about fading Broadway stars fleeing bad reviews in New York City to tell a backwoods town in middle America how they wrong are for not allowing a lesbian student to take her girlfriend to prom as her date doesn't exactly sound like glitzy material for a splashy, old-fashioned musical. Yet, that's exactly what composer Sklar, lyricist Beguelin, and book writers Beguelin and Bob Martin have created with The Prom. Sklar's beguiling score pristinely mixes pop sentimentality with opulent Broadway schmaltz while adding a few more resplendent melodies to the American Songbook.
Beguelin's lyrics are always accessible, helping to make them unforgettable. With a keen eye for observation, Beguelin's lyrics adroitly hold a mirror up to every member of the audience, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum. Obviously, the conservative right is being skewered for imposing on the rights of others; however, the left is keenly scrutinized too. Beguelin calls out social justice warriors who only participate in activism for their own vanity. These moments, naturally, are played for laughs, without diminishing the power of the message. Then, with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, Beguelin also earns laughs from craftily working in references to other well-known musicals.
Headlining the production, both Beth Leavel and Brooks Ashmanskas give stirring, star-status-reaffirming performances. Leavel belts her way through showstoppers like "It's Not About Me" and "The Lady's Improving." These numbers are the foil to one another, and she handles them both with stunning prowess. Singing "It's Not About Me," Leavel's character is completely unaware of how cynical the lyrics are, singing the track with unflinching sincerity. After recognizing her errors, she performs "The Lady's Improving" with all the heart that can be mustered, making the number effective and powerful. Ashmanskas brings the house down with his endless effervescence on "Barry's Going to Prom," making all fall under his spell. His character's wide-eyed optimism is a delight across the entire album, adding layers of sparkling glitter to tracks like "Tonight Belongs to You" too.
Caitlin Kinnunen mints her star and holds her own against the seasoned cast with her endearing, evocative performances on "Just Breathe," "Dance With You," and "Unruly Heart." Christopher Seiber sublimely leads the cast through the "The Acceptance Song," but he brings dazzling life to the raucously hilarious "Love Thy Neighbor." On "We Look to You," Michael Potts warms listeners's hearts with a lovely ballad that highlights what makes musical theatre such a favorite art form while also illuminating how celebrities may have too much sway over lives. Angie Schworer's "Zazz" conjures images of Fosse choreography with her vocal razzle dazzle. Isabella McCalla's bright instrument ensures the emotions of "Alyssa Greene" are vivid and palpable.
The Prom (Original Broadway Cast Recording) is a resplendent capture of one of the most memorable and truly delightful new scores of the last decade. The entire album has a feel-good vibe to it, making it all the more enchanting as we drearily drudge through the doldrums of late fall and early winter. Truthfully, The Prom (Original Broadway Cast Recording) is a fully loaded confetti cannon that waits to bring a smile to your face every time you give it a listen.
Sony Masterworks Broadway's The Prom (Original Broadway Cast Recording) can currently be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold digitally. Physical copies will be released on January 11, 2019.