But working with the director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw, who staged "Chaperone" as well as the current "Aladdin" and "Mean Girls," the team behind "The Prom" has attempted a more difficult gymnastic maneuver. As in many of the greatest Golden Age musicals, they latch onto a subject of topical importance, using its gravity to anchor their satire and their satire to leaven its earnestness. In full "Hairspray" mode, they mostly succeed.
THE PROM Broadway Reviews
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BWW Review: Brooks Ashmanskas Gives a Classic Musical Comedy Star Turn in Hilarious and Touching THE PROM
And along with all the laughter, there's a great deal of feeling in The Prom, a musical that helps prove there's no better spectacle on Broadway than inspired writing, terrific melodies, big enthusiastic performances and a production loaded with honest-to-goodness heart.
Had The Prom's creative team-book writers Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin and composer Matthew Sklar-limited the frame to this story of intolerance and resistance, it would be spinachly worthy and Trumpily relevant. But they wrap an outrageous showbiz satire around the earnest center, and the result is the perfect blend of salt and sweet. The tag line: Broadway Boomers try to save prom for a millennial lesbian who is totally embarrassed by them. A good premise executed well is the formula that wins here.
The legitimately funny book is co-written by Bob Martin, who won a Tony Award (as did Leavel) for his work in the same capacity on The Drowsy Chaperone; and Chad Beguelin, who penned Disney's Aladdin, another Nicholaw musical. The two-pronged score, which has distinct styles for the Hoosier teens and the Manhattanite interlopers, is by composer Matthew Sklar, with clever lyrics by Beguelin; the two last teamed on yet another Nicholaw show, Elf. Any musical that makes it to Broadway these days without a familiar movie source or a popular jukebox score is an achievement, so this original story is a rainbow unicorn that wins points right there.
The Prom will make you laugh-I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard at a new musical-and it will also fill you with the toasty-warm glow of unchallenged righteousness. That's a surprising combination, especially nowadays.
This original musical has laughs, tears and joy - not to mention jaw-dropping star-turns - in a clash-of-cultures hoot that earns a big Broadway corsage. It seems like a dubious musical mash-up: Broadway narcissists-turned-activists take over a middle-American town to help a lesbian teen who just wants to bring her date to the prom. But with a tuneful score, a playful book, and performances that remind you what Broadway heart and chutzpah are all about, this cause celebre of a show turns out to be a joyous, funny, and sweet production that should appeal to several generations of musical fans.
Review: The Prom hits the heights of hilarity as a spoof of Broadway - but the kids aren’t all right
The first scenes of The Prom, a new Broadway musical comedy that makes gleeful fun of Broadway performers, are as deliriously funny as any musical of recent vintage. Of course, satirizing the world of Broadway is right in the wheelhouse of the show's co-creator Bob Martin, the Canadian Tony-winning librettist best known for The Drowsy Chaperone.
Though it teases Broadway, The Prom has the appealing scrappiness of a party thrown by the theater community for itself, and nowhere is this celebration more joyous than in the deliciously hammy performances of its two seasoned stars, who take over-the-top to dizzying heights. The hilarious Ashmanskas never seems more than a hop, skip and jump away from actually hopping, skipping and jumping, and Leavel churns her big number, a pastiche called "The Lady's Improving," into pure showtune butter. It's not the show: It's them. They're lovable.
Its trajectory is familiar: Benighted would-be heroes gallop in to save the day, make a mess, discover their actual moral centers in the process, fess up to their initial selfishness, and then we all sing, dance, and love one another a little better. But its tone is fresh and zingy, its characters genuinely laughable and lovable - in part because the performers playing the Broadway babies are smartly poking fun at themselves.
REVIEW: Broadway saves Indiana in 'The Prom,' a savvy, self-aware and consistently funny new musical of liberal longing
Good luck, Emma, you think. And you'll need the sense of humor that nobody bothered to write for you. But you're still laughing much of the time at the generally witty book and, for sure, enjoying Nicholaw's truly eye-popping explorations of how youthful dance can be a unifying force across our great political gulf.
This slice of The Prom, directed (and sparklingly choreographed) by Casey Nicholaw, is a fun surf through actorly vanity and ego: the stars are not monsters but opportunists, and it just so happens that this opportunism intersects with a belief in equality they all share
As the full-of-themselves hoofers and belters, Beth Leavel, Brooks Ashmanskas, Christopher Sieber and Angie Schworer, along with their more spirited than effective publicist, played by Josh Lamon, chew the scenery to great delight, descending on small town America like bedazzled locusts. Their big numbers - "Changing Lives," "It's Not About Me," "The Lady's Improving" - show just the hoped-for levels of All About Eve level self-satisfaction anyone could want.
The good news is that these four Broadway losers score: Angie Schworer is the merry epitome of every second-rate Roxie Hart, only leggier. Christopher Sieber makes us believe that Juilliard, indeed, was his career high point - and he's proud of it. Beth Leavel offers an uproarious glimpse of what Liza Minnelli would be if she'd continued performing. And Brooks Ashmanskas somehow manages to be even gayer on stage than ever before.
Many important social issues - inclusion, arts education, community outreach - get run over by lame humor, underwhelming songs and ultra-hammy performances in this original musical, which is so flimsy, tacky and amateurish that it leaves you wondering how it got to Broadway in the first place.