BY JENNA FANELLI

Ironic, satirical, over-the-top and even borderline problematic at select moments as it may be, the book and script for The Prom are undoubtedly laugh-out-loud funny. While the show reminds audiences that homophobia is still rampant and human rights are still threatened in our country in 2023, viewers also get to judge and laugh at the caricatures of narcissistic, grossly dramatic thespians, and closed-minded Indiana conservatives.

A show of this queer, party-centered, simultaneously absurd but also scarily-familiar nature, doesn’t work with just comedic writing though. The material needs to be complemented by the right costuming, sets, choreography, music and cast for the production to be pulled off, and CM Performing Arts Center’s Long Island premiere of The Prom delivers.

With a book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin based on an original concept by Jack Viertel, music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin, the show follows Emma (Katy Trunz), a high school student who is being ostracized for being an out lesbian and wanting to bring her girlfriend Alyssa (Rebecca Martowski) to the school prom.

Alyssa runs with the torturous cheerleaders and is closeted, but plans to come out at the event. Emma and Alyssa’s plans are derailed when the school PTA objects to allowing same-sex couples, leaving lone progressive ally and school principal Mr. Hawkins (Dennis Creighton) outnumbered and forced to take legal action to ensure an inclusive prom.

Over in New York, Broadway actors Barry Glickman (Joe Kassner) and Dee Dee Allen (Christina D’Orta Muens) are grappling with a review of their new show in which the critic knocks their egotism. Desperate to get back in the public’s good graces, they begin striving to find a cause to get behind when their fellow actor Angie Dickinson (DeAnna Feldman) discovers Emma’s struggle on twitter.

The three, along with proudly Julliard-trained actor Trent Oliver (Ronnie Green) and theatre publicist Sheldon Saperstein (John Mazzarella) head to Indiana in an attempt to help Emma get the same prom her peers will enjoy so they can earn a favorable image.

The core adult cast in this production stands out with these dynamic, unpredictable characters who are walking contradictions. They are nothing if not entertaining with their quippy dialogue, massive personalities only outshone by their sparkling outfits, and resounding vocals. Still, they are relatively unlikeable, self-aggrandizing and even ignorant at the start, as even their plan to defend Emma is acting only in their own interest.

This makes their character development, though, all the more meaningful, especially as D’Orta Muens and Kassner make the personal growth of their characters completely endearing to the point where it’s difficult not to applaud and root for their success.

Mostly responsible for inspiring this turn to good faith is Barry and Dee Dee’s forming of meaningful personal relationships with some of the Indiana natives. Dee Dee and Mr. Hawkins strike up a connection from their first meeting which blossoms into a relationship that leads the former to be more intentionally selfless. Barry forms a deep connection with Emma, in whom he sees his young self who was cast out by his community for being gay. As he works tirelessly in what becomes a genuine effort to make things right by Emma, Barry heals some of his own trauma while also functioning as a paternal figure for Emma, made even more poignant by the fact that the teen is estranged from her own father due to her sexuality.

The bonds formed by these characters are truly authentically enhanced by the gentle-yet-palpable chemistry between D’Orta Muens and Creighton, and Kassner and Trunz, respectively. Even the mentorship that Trent develops with Emma’s peers at school which eventually results in the teenagers’ acknowledgment of Emma’s feelings and their own hypocrisy lends itself to the show’s impactful moments of sincerity.

Just when it seems the adults have completely stolen the show, though, the ensemble of this production bursts in with their incredible energy, cohesive partner work and group dances (with fresh, modern and fun choreography by Melissa Rapelje). Additionally, Trunz and Martowksi add a much-needed center of normalcy and simplicity in the midst of the chaos and larger-than-life characters surrounding them, which balances the entire production.

And, while theatre lovers will likely feel an extra appreciation for this production with all of its glitz, glam, nods to the Great White Way and an expertly-led live orchestra, this show is, at its core, fun for everyone, though its messaging is still wildly relevant. The best summation of this production was a proclamation by an audience member heard as patrons filed out of the CMPAC auditorium: “I just want to keep dancing!”

Read the Review here: https://www.broadwayworld.com/long-island/article/Review-THE-PROM-at-CM-Performing-Arts-Center-20230505

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