The Prom (2020)

Movie musicals are never easy to make. You have to figure out who you want to please more: the musical theater fans or the movie crowd because there is not actually a lot of crossover there. And I don’t know that The Prom appeases either set of fans.

Directed by Ryan Murphy, The Prom is a film based on the musical of the same name by Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin, and Bob Martin.  It’s a movie musical about a group of self-obsessed musical actors who flock to a small conservative Indiana town to help out a young girl who is unable to attend her prom all because she wants to bring her girlfriend. The film stars Meryl Streep, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, and Nicole Kidman as the aforementioned self-obsessed musical actors, and introduces Jo Ellen Pellman as Emma Nolan, the girl fighting to be able to attend prom. The film also stars Keegan-Michael Key as the principal of the high school, and Kerry Washington as Mrs. Greene, the head of the PTA.

There’s a handful of issues that I have with the casting of this film. First and foremost, James Corden being cast as Barry Glickman, an openly gay man. This one just didn’t make any sense to me, especially because 1. Andrew Rannells, an actual openly gay man, was in the film as a different character and 2. There are plenty of gay actors/singers that could have been put in this role. It didn’t make sense to have this straight man perform this stereotypical take on a gay man. The second issue I have with the casting of this film is that it was headlined by A-Listers. The stage musical The Prom was originally set up and cast in a way that gave those who have been in supporting roles for most of their career the opportunity to be the lead. I think the film should have done this, as well. They could have started by having Andrew Rannells play Barry Glickman.

Moving on.

The Prom introduces actress Jo Ellen Pellman into the realm of film and, although I think she is an incredibly talented singer, I felt that her acting felt too “stage” like. She was very big and over the top where it wasn’t necessary. Keegan-Michael Key, on the other hand, surprised me. His performance of “We Look to You” was particularly heart warming. And, surprisingly, I felt that he and Meryl Streep had just enough chemistry to really sell any budding relationship between his character, Principal Tom Hawkins, and hers, Dee Dee Allen.

The Prom' Review: Showbiz Sanctimony, and All That Zazz - The New York TimesI felt that Andrew Rannells and Nicole Kidman were vastly underused. The beginning of the song “Zazz” was easily the best filmed bit of the entire film and Kidman was captivating. Rannells’ rendition of “Love Thy Neighbor”, a clear homage to Godspell‘s “We Beseech Thee”, was wonderfully done. Other than those two moments, though, I find the film somewhat forgettable. Like the film version of The Last Five Years or Nine.

I enjoy the music from Matthew Skylar and Chad Beguelin. I think, lyrically, their songs are wonderful. However, The Prom does sound like they just used leftovers from their musical The Wedding Singer.

I love movie musicals, and this was one that I was excited to hear about, especially after watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2018. However, I don’t think that it was executed as best as it could have been. I’m not sure Murphy was the right person to direct it and I’m definitely sure that James Corden should not have been cast to play an openly gay man when he, himself, is straight. That just didn’t sit right with me.

The Prom is currently available to stream on Netflix.

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