Truth and Movies

The Prom

Review by Emily Maskell @EmMaskell

Directed by

Ryan Murphy

Starring

Keegan-Michael Key Meryl Streep Nicole Kidman

Anticipation.

Broadway’s The Prom is a spectacle, can the film match it?

Enjoyment.

A show-stopping, glitter-dusted extravaganza.

In Retrospect.

Fully honours its Broadway roots.

Ryan Murphy’s star-studded restaging of the hit Broadway musical hits all the right notes.

It’s always a worrying prospect when a beloved stage show is adapted for the screen – even more so in the wake of Cats. Thankfully, Ryan Murphy’s The Prom, based on the 2018 Broadway musical of the same name, is a fabulous spectacle.

The film meets the self-obsessed stars of the Eleanor Roosevelt musical on their grand opening night. After negative reviews threaten to close the show, the performers seek a chance for damage control publicity. They find their cause in Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), a teenage lesbian from Edgewater, Indiana who tried to bring her girlfriend to prom only for the PTA to refuse and cancel the entire event. The conflict is personal, as closeted Alyssa’s (Ariana DeBose) overbearing mother, the head of the PTA, doesn’t realise it is her daughter Emma is dating.

From the first energetic number, The Prom delivers dazzling sequin-covered choreography. In particular, Emma and Alyssa’s high-school romance is adorable, and the film really sparkles when these two are in the spotlight. If only the focus was on them more often.

Still, no one can blame director Ryan Murphy for wanting to make the most of Meryl Streep’s exuberant performance as the narcissistic Dee Dee Allen – a romantic subplot between her and Keegan-Michael Key’s empathetic, Broadway-loving principal provides the opportune moment for some glitzy theatrics.

Elsewhere, Nicole Kidman’s bubbly Angie is there to comfort Emma, while proud Juilliard alumni Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells) stars in his own flamboyant mall musical. It is only the effervescent Barry Glickman that is let down by the casting of James Corden. In comparison to Brooks Ashmanskas’ portrayal, Corden feels disingenuous, over-emphasising every camp detail of his character.

On its toes thanks to some snappy editing, this joyous ode to musical theatre honours the buoyant melodies and heart-wrenching solos that fans of the Broadway show cherish. Featuring every song from the show and with some scenes recreated word-for-word, the only notable changes come in fleshing out a few supporting characters, as well as a lyric change which means Corden doesn’t sing the word ‘d*ke’ (probably for the best).

Most entertaining when the stars set aside their selfish desires and focus on the brilliance of Emma and Alyssa, The Prom is a thoroughly enjoyable celebration of queer acceptance, leaving you craving the collective experience of the theatre.

Published 1 Dec 2020

Tags: James Corden Keegan Michael-Key Meryl Streep Netflix Nicole Kidman Ryan Murphy The Prom

Anticipation.

Broadway’s The Prom is a spectacle, can the film match it?

Enjoyment.

A show-stopping, glitter-dusted extravaganza.

In Retrospect.

Fully honours its Broadway roots.

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