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BWW Blog: My Thoughts on THE PROM

“The Prom” has officially been streaming for a week. What do I think?

BWW Blog: My Thoughts on THE PROM

Theatre fans were given an early Christmas gift last Friday when Ryan Murphy's film adaptation of "The Prom" was released on Netflix. Featuring an all-star cast that includes Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells, Ariana DeBose, Kerry Washington, and Jo Ellen Pellman (in her film debut), "The Prom" turns the six-time Tony-nominated Broadway musical into a hilarious and charming musical film that promotes love and inclusivity.

For those unfamiliar with "The Prom", here's a brief summary:

A high school student from Indiana named Emma Nolan wants to attend prom with her girlfriend, much to the disapproval of the PTA, who end up deciding to cancel the prom altogether. When a group of down-on-their-luck Broadway actors hears this news, they travel to Indiana to fight the PTA's decision and give Emma the prom she deserves.

During its Broadway run, "The Prom" was praised by critics for its score, humor, and performances. However, this time around, it seems that "The Prom" and its charms weren't enough to win critics over the same way it did back then, receiving mixed-to-positive reviews upon its release.

I don't really understand the mixed reaction, but then again I'm just a theatre fan and not a critic. Are there special glasses with special lenses I have to wear to see movies the way a critic does? Maybe I have to know big words? I don't know about being a critic, but I do know that "The Prom" is a treat for Broadway fans (or at the very least a great watch for those who have a high tolerance for musicals).

BWW Blog: My Thoughts on THE PROM
Meryl Streep and James Corden in "The Prom"

I sort of went in blind for this one. I knew the basic premise and I had seen the cast perform at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2018 and the Tony Awards in 2019. Other than that, I hadn't taken the time to listen to any of the music, so I really had no idea what was in store. Now that I think about it, that definitely made me enjoy it a little more. I didn't anticipate anything or sing along, and it gave me the chance to just sit back and enjoy the show.

And enjoy the show I did. The music was fun and catchy, the script was heartwarmingly funny, and the performances of the cast were absolutely superb.

I found it to be an odd choice to recast all of the lead roles instead of allowing the Broadway cast to return for the film, especially since the Broadway production had only just closed months before production began. But that's Hollywood; the bigger the names you put on the bill, the more people watch your movie. Nonetheless, the cast blew me away. Everyone, from Meryl Streep right down to Keegan-Michael Key, delivered magnificent performances that kept me engaged, almost as if the roles were written for them. The casting of James Corden was questionable (since he's a straight man playing a gay man), but he knows how to steal a scene, and I've got to give him props for that. Andrew Rannells once again proves that he is simply not capable of giving a bad performance. Jo Ellen Pellman shines in her film debut. Even though no one from the original Broadway cast reprised their roles, the casting directors did a fantastic job choosing the actors to bring the characters from stage to screen.

BWW Blog: My Thoughts on THE PROM
Jo Ellen Pellman made her
film debut as Emma in "The Prom."

The score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin kind of surprised me. I don't know why, but I was expecting everything to sound like "It's Time to Dance", with elements of EDM. I was wrong, of course. The score incorporates a variety of styles, from pop to classic Broadway. The song "Love Thy Neighbor" even brings some gospel into the mix. These catchy and infectious songs make me regret not checking out this musical sooner; I was missing out. Why didn't anyone tell me?!

BWW Blog: My Thoughts on THE PROM
Andrew Rannells and cast filming
"Love Thy Neighbor" from "The Prom"

What else can I say? There was more depth to the story than I was expecting, and I loved every moment of it. While it's not his first time directing musical sequences, it is Ryan Murphy's first time directing a movie musical and, despite a few speedbumps, he did an incredible job. Stories like this are right up his alley, and I'm very satisfied with what he was able to do with it.

If you're like me, you might look at the reviews for a film before deciding whether or not you want to watch it. Rotten Tomatoes and I have been through a lot together. As usual, I checked Rotten Tomatoes as soon as reviews came out for the film... and I watched the "Tomatometer" drop. I ignored this and watched the film, and I've got to be completely honest: I don't understand why it was reviewed so harshly. I can't think of one thing that I didn't love about it (except maybe Kerry Washington's character, but they did that on purpose). I didn't even need Rotten Tomatoes to tell me whether or not the film was good. "The Prom" is a wonderful film that I look forward to watching again and again.

In short: don't let the reviews discourage you from experiencing "The Prom". I didn't, and I think I'm a much happier person because of it. It might have even added a few years to my life.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and happy holidays! See you in the new year!

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