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Review: THE PROM at The 5th Avenue Theatre

A delightful romp with tons of heart.

Review: THE PROM at The 5th Avenue Theatre
Kaden Kearney and Kalyn West in
The National Tour of The Prom.
Photo Credit: Deen Van Meer

Dear Readers, as we enter Pride month, I can't think of a more delightful way to celebrate than having the national tour of the gay romp "The Prom" come to us at the 5th Avenue Theatre. This wonderful little musical comedy with a timely message first came on the scene in 2018 before becoming a Netflix movie in 2020. And if you haven't seen them, or even if you have, you should get out to the 5th to catch this one with its infectious songs and hilarious characters. You can watch the movie, but I honestly think the stage show is better. Natually.

With a book from Bob Martin ("The Drowsy Chaperone") and Chad Beguelin ("Elf" and "The Wedding Singer") and Lyrics from Beguelin and Music from Matthew Sklar (("Elf" and "The Wedding Singer") we start out with our ... um ... heroes? There's award winning Broadway actors Dee Dee Allen and Barry Glickman (Courtney Balan and Patrick Wetzel), as well as struggling to make a name for themselves Broadway performers Angie (Understudy Gabrielle Beckford on the night I saw it) and Trent (Bud Weber). Each of them has had some downfalls in their careers and they need a boost. The four of them in their narcissistic ways decide to take on a cause célèbre to get their names out there. Enter Emma (Kaden Kearney), a high schooler in Indiana who just wants to take their girlfriend to their Prom but has come up against opposition from the local PTA. So, the Broadway actors descend upon town to teach them all to be more open minded ... and get their names in the news.

As someone who couldn't even imagine taking a same sex partner to a school event when I was in high school, shows like this, or the recent Netflix hit "Heartstopper", really resonate with me showing how far we've come and how far we still have to go. Imagine a world where a story about someone taking their same sex partner, or trans partner, or non-binary partner out in public would be no big deal. It'd be nice but we're not there yet, but until then we have shows like this. Luckily the writing from Martin, Beguelin and Sklar are fabulous. I had the Act One closer, "Tonight Belongs to Us" running through my head all the way home. And when combined with the fantastic staging and killer choreography from Casey Nicholaw the show is a winner. I was lucky enough to catch this one on Broadway at its final preview and have loved it ever since.

Review: THE PROM at The 5th Avenue Theatre
Courtney Balan, Patrick Wetzel, Bud Weber, and
Emily Borromeo in The National Tour of The Prom.
Photo Credit: Deen Van Meer

But how is this touring production? Well, you can never really compare to an original cast especially one that tight, but this cast does an excellent job. Balan and Wetzel make for some wonderful egotists and grow nicely as the show goes on to bring out their true giving natures. And both of them have some awesome vocal belts. Beckford has one of the smaller parts of the four but makes the most of it with her ode to Bob Fosse, "Zazz". But my favorite had to be the upbeat ridiculousness of the dashing Weber. Each and every moment on stage he owned and put every ounce of himself into the role.

But at its core, this is Emma's story and Kearney carries it beautifully. They bring in so much passion and heart to the role making them a delight to watch. Their voice is stunning and when they have their duets with Kalyn West as their girlfriend Alyssa, the chemistry is off the charts and adorable. And I must mention West who may have only one solo, but she kills it. I also have to mention the ensemble who bring in multiple roles and keep the energy popping throughout and their glee is completely contagious.

I will say I was totally looking forward to this one and it did not disappoint. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give the national tour of "The Prom" at the 5th Avenue Theatre a joyful YAY. And sure, it would have been nice to have attitudes like this when I was young, but I'm so happy to see more and more bits of entertainment like these showing how much more open teens today are and that gives me hope for the future.

"The Prom" performs at the 5th Avenue Theatre through June 19th. For tickets or information visit them online at www.5thavenue.org.



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