Interview: Vicki Lewis of THE PROM at Axelrod PAC

Lewis stars in Artistic Director Andrew DePrisco’s rendition of the stirring musical and talks about her personal connection with her character.

By: May. 08, 2023
Interview: Vicki Lewis of THE PROM at Axelrod PAC
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Actress Vicki Lewis may not have thought much of her acting talents as a self-effacing high school student, but her English teacher and fellow thespians were betting on her. Them, and a gentleman-drummer by the name Jim Betz- who was also a part of the show she was asked to be - and wound up asking her to be his date to the prom.

"It's like something opened a world where no one made fun of me; everyone got my sense of humor," recalled Lewis in a recent phone interview of her first brush with acting and her high school prom. "They thought I was talented, even though I didn't know what that was. It was the best thing ever."

It was at her prom where Lewis says she found her tribe. A little over four decades later, she finds herself attending the prom, again. This time, as the star of Artistic Director Andrew DePrisco's rendition of The Prom, now staged at The Axelrod Theater in Deal, NJ through May 21. Lewis (known for her starring Broadway roles in Damn Yankees, Chicago and Anastasia) plays Dee Dee Allen alongside her real-life bestie, John Scherer (By Jeeves and Sunset Boulevard), who is playing Barry Glickman. Kindred spirits, their friendship dates back to the 1980s before the dynamic duo took the stage together in Cole Porter's Anything Goes in 2011 held during the Music Circus summer season at the Wells Fargo Pavilion in Sacramento, California. Lewis played Reno Sweeney and Scherer, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.

"We both have the same high-energy and childish sense of humor," said Lewis of their synergy. "We really are the same, and at times, it's probably too much for the people around us. We dial into one another. No one can make me laugh harder. He's the male version of me. On a serious note, he is so talented and has such a big heart and such a kind persona and incredibly funny and off the wall, and all of those things line up for us. I'm very lucky to have found him."

In a news release, Scherer called it a "thrill" to be reunited with Lewis for this production, which includes a sizeable ensemble of singers and dancers and describes hilarious and meaningful.

The Prom, which was nominated for six Tony Awards with a score by Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin who penned the novel by the same name with Bob Martin, won the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical and, in 2020, was released as a movie starring Meryl Streep, James Corden and Nicole Kidman. The story chronicles the adventures of four Broadway has-beens who board a tour bus that takes them into a hidden gem in the US that's not close from their big city roots but not too far either, providing the perfect excursion: Indiana. With their New York values in tow, the gang meets high school senior, Emma Nolan (Lillian Belle), who-to her chagrin- is refused admittance to the school's biggest dance of the year for her desire to attend with her girlfriend. Her doldrums provide the perfect springboard for an enlivening Broadway performance where lessons are learned, self-esteem is rebuilt and potential is realized- all scenarios Lewis says coincides with her own life story in the dog-eat-dog world of show business.

"I've had a front row seat to very famous people who take themselves too seriously, in both movies and theater out in LA, and it's kind of a great moment to do a send up like that," she explained of the opportunity. "As we get older, as women, we become invisible. In life, you just sort of get overlooked and things slow down. It's a very hard adjustment, and I understand that, and you can make one of two choices. You can keep trying to grab on: If I get more money, a series, a Tony, then I'll finally be happy. Or, you can let go and become pliable and teachable and realize that none of that is where happiness is found. It's icing on the cake. My early days on News Radio, a lot of films, I was on Broadway [with] Damn Yankees. I was really grateful and having the time of my life, [but] I hit a wall [and] it forced me to take time out and work on myself. It's an inside job. I have been a happier human since that."

She continued, "It's nobody's fault in show business. So much rejection and competition you can easily become locked off and bitter about it. What's great about Dee Dee is she is that person. She meets the principal and he tells the beautiful story about what acting means to him as an escape, and it touches people. She has a shift; she takes a deep breath and tries to be a better human. She finds, for the first time in herself, happiness in this simple place."


Beyond Indiana, when viewing the country from a panoramic view, Lewis says its divisiveness in the last six years feels like humanity has gone backward, constituting a "scary time" in our history. The Prom's exploration of themes of acceptance and love, rejection and dejection, wholeness and redemption make this musical a heart-on-the-sleeve must-see, as the director puts it.

"If you can stop for a minute and reflect on how hard that's got to be for a young person to love who they love, and represent themselves how they want to represent themselves... there's no wrong way to be or love unless you're harming other people," said Lewis. "Now more than ever we have to pause and give those people a safe space to land, to be who they are, and love who they are."

Tickets to The Prom can be purchased at axelrodartscenter.com.




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