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Review: THE PROM at Shea's Buffalo Theatre

Review: THE PROM at Shea's Buffalo Theatre

Intolerance Meets Broadway

THE PROM concludes it's National tour in Buffalo this week as the big show with lots of heart took to the Shea's Buffalo stage. The first production of the 2022-23 M & T Bank Broadway Season is not an instantly recognizable name to theatre goers, despite having had a one year run on the Great White Way and a Hollywood A-List Netflix movie starring Meryl Streep.

Review: THE PROM at Shea's Buffalo Theatre

When a few narcissistic Broadway actors find their careers in the dumps after a bomb production of a show about Eleanor Roosevelt, the troupe realize they need to back a social cause to shed some positive press on their names. They find a lesbian high schooler who is banned from her prom in Indiana and voila, their cause is found. But can these bloated actors with their right wing Democratic ideals really help this small town?

The book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin does it's level best to create some comic strip Broadway personalities in the diva DeeDee, the effete middle aged Sheldon, the overblown young stud Trent and the failing chorine Angie. From the outset it is clear the group doesn't have a caring bone in their body as they trudge across the country to rescue their careers by doing good.

They take over a school Board meeting like a bull in a china shop, to the consternation of the shocked citizens. Their attempts to create a LGBTQ tolerant prom for the young Emma and her closeted girlfriend make up the fabric of the story. There are hints of FOOTLOOSE in this repressed community and THE PROM bravely brings controversial topics to the forefront by endearing it's characters to the audience. Luckily the comic elements in the script eventually foster some common bonds and a sense on inclusivity that one can only hope for future generations.

The cast has an overall energetic presence but rarely brings star quality to their roles, with the exception of effervescent Courtney Balan as Dee Dee. She demands attention, and receives it, as the self centered, TONY Award winning leading lady. Her powerhouse voice is crystal clear, her exasperations are spot on funny, and by her big solo "The Lady's Improving," she convinces everyone she is a star.

Young Kaden Kearney as Emma brings a good sense of teenage angst to the role and some great dance moves. One wished for stronger vocals though, and the sound design for the entire production seemed off and unbalanced on opening night. Her closeted girlfriend Shelby ( Kalyn West) gets her chance to shine as she embodies a tender sense of fear of coming out of the closet. Ashanti J'Aria is Shelby's mother, aka the town villain. She heads the PTA and can't fathom why gays need to go to prom, let alone having a lesbian as her own daughter.

Patrick Wetzel is Barry Glickman, the Jewish, gay, over the top show queen actor. The audience loved his flamboyance and go get 'em attitude. He finds some heart in the story, having never been to his own prom as a gay youth and takes Emma under his wing. Wetzel gives it his all, but seemed strained by the vocal requirements of such a leading role.

Bud Oliver was great as the conceited Juilliard grad, out of work actor Trent Oliver. His suave moves and smooth voice fit the role perfectly. Emily Borromeo as Angie was charming as the leggy dancer who tries to show Emma how to have confidence through dance in the song "Zazz."

Sinclair Mitchell is the sympathetic school principal Mr. Hawkins. Mr. Mitchell soft singing voice was often inaudible, but he grounds the zany New Yorkers and is often awe struck, His touching dates with Dee Deer yank her from the spotlight into reality

Music by Matthew Skylar comes across as generic in most numbers, often meandering and not very memorable. The generic orchestrations are pleasant enough but sound like synthesized carbon copies of other modern day musicals.

Director and Choreographer Casey Nicholaw is responsible for some of Broadway's greatest hits in the last 20 years, from THE DROWSY CHAPERONE to THE BOOK OF MORMON. His direction here is broad and dances are best when using the large group of high schoolers, full of frenetic energy.

Sets by Scott Pask are Broadway caliber while costumes by Ann Roth and Matthew Pachtman border of kitsch.

By the show's conclusion there is a buoyant optimism that some good has been brought to everyone involved in this zany publicity stunt. And hopefully, everyone on the other side of the footlights got a small lesson in tolerance and acceptance as the large cast dances with joyful energy.

THE PROM plays at Shea's Buffalo Theatre through Oct 2, 2022. Contact for more information

From This Author - Michael Rabice

Michael Rabice has over  40 years of experience attending plays, musicals and opera all over the world. He is a frequent performer in opera and has appeared with the Glimmerglass Opera, A... (read more about this author)

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