About a year and a half ago (prior to the pandemic) I was lucky enough to see The Prom live on Broadway. I was blown away by the songs, the dancing and the hilarious characters and jokes. Seeing The Prom in New York was a wonderful memory I will always cherish. Now that Broadway is unfortunately shut-down, we are at least lucky enough to be able to view this modern musical through the recently-released Netflix film of the same name.
Netflix’s The Prom, directed by Glee and American Horror Story’s Ryan Murphy, is an incredibly close adaptation starring some of Hollywood’s biggest names like Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells and James Corden. Meryl Streep and James Corden play Dee Dee Allen and Barry Glickman, two narcissistic Broadway A-listers, Nicole Kidman portrays chorus girl and under-study Angie Dickinson and Andrew Rannells plays Trent Oliver, a former child actress turned B-list Broadway star.
The story of The Prom begins when Angie, Trent, Dee Dee and Barry all decide that they need a cause to fight for in order to get some good press after their musical’s bad review. That’s when Angie finds a story on Twitter about Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), a high school senior in Edgewater, Indiana who accidentally got her school’s prom cancelled after requesting to take another girl as her date. The Broadway stars all agree this is the perfect “cause” so they excitedly pack their bags for Indiana.
However, upon arriving in Indiana, the fabulous four quickly realize how different things are there from back home in New York—and not just in terms of social equality. For one thing, there is no spa at the nicest hotel in town and the best restaurant to eat at is Applebees—or “Apples and Bees” as Dee Dee calls it. Plus, while their foursome might consist of a two-time Tony Award winner and a well-known former child star, they are still no match for high school mean girls Kaylee (Logan Riley) and Shelby (Sofia Deler) or the head of the PTA, Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington), who will do anything in her power to ensure that there are no homosexuals at her daughter Alyssa’s (Ariana DeBose) senior prom.
While the story may still be relatable, inspiring and pro-LGTQ, it wouldn’t be nearly as good if it weren’t for the musical numbers featuring top-notch vocal talent and Broadway-level choreography. The songs in this musical are catchy, upbeat and oftentimes pretty comical too—think High School Musical meets Mean Girls: The Musical. Some of my favorite songs from the film include: “Dance With You,” ”Tonight Belongs to You,” “Love Thy Neighbor” and “It’s Time to Dance.”
After seeing both renditions, I can tell that not much in terms of the script or plot was altered for the film which allowed it to maintain its original charm. Despite that, I still believe there is something special about seeing performances like this one live that a film just can’t capture.
The biggest fault in the film was clearly the casting. While Meryl Streep may have a wide fanbase, I don’t believe that she was the right fit for the role of Dee Dee. I think part of the reason the film failed to be as funny as the Broadway version is because Dee Dee herself was not funny. I feel that the film would have been stronger if the part of Dee Dee had been given to a comedic actress instead.
Additionally, I was unable to feel the chemistry between her and Principal Hawkins the same way I did when seeing it on Broadway. Being that their relationship is one of the major romances in the film, it should have been more authentic. Overall, it just felt like production went for the big names instead of actually trying to find the right fit for each part.
With that being said, I do recommend The Prom to anyone that enjoys musicals. If you ever get the chance to see it performed on stage one day, don’t miss it. But for now, at least we have this similar and almost-as-good version on Netflix.
‘The Prom’ is available to stream on Netflix.
By Blair Krassen @blairlyawake