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Bob Goepfert: "The Prom" Is Good, Silly Fun

Playbill for "The Prom"

New York - “The Prom,” which recently opened on Broadway is what I think of as a “word of mouth show.”

Because it is a musical that is clearly crafted for commercial success, in the eyes of many, it somehow seems less genuine or worthy of praise.

Imagine celebrating material that is silly (gasp). Or, horror of horrors, it is the kind of show that depends on the exaggeration of familiar types to develop its story. And, making it worse, “The Prom” makes a point about a serious social issue in a way that tends towards sentimentality. Silly and sentimental – what a fate.

Yes, “The Prom” is contrived, lacking in complexity and is even predictable. However, I am convinced anyone who sees the show will recommend it to a friend. It’s two and a half hours of fun. Indeed, it’s been a long time since I laughed so hard and so consistently in the theater.

And, the important moral that says everyone deserves to be able to love the person they love in public - is convincingly made.

The plot involves four actors who fail at everything. Each is so vain and ego-driven that they cannot develop any type of an audience base. Their performing skills are marginal, and their personalities make them unappealing to the public.

In an effort to appear as nice people who are socially aware and are politically active in support of a popular cause, the four decide to go to Indiana to advocate for a young lesbian high school girl who has been, by political chicanery, denied the right to attend the prom with her girlfriend.

It is not a spoiler to say that they only make matters worse. Actually, it’s more to the point that they do so in comical ways as their meddling is both delightful and fun to watch. Another non-spoiler is to reveal that their mission changes them for the better.

One of the many charms of “The Prom” is that it is clear that the book writers, Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, genuinely love theater. The characters are self -serving and self-absorbed, but they are nice people who cannot comprehend that the world does not admire their meager accomplishments. One character is astounded that at a motel, her placing her two Tony Awards on the desk does not get her a better room.

The entire cast is wonderful as they capture the comic simplicity of their way of thinking. Anyone who saw Bruce Ashmanskas perform in his several seasons at Williamstown Theatre Festival will know the performer for his marvelous comic timing and unbounded energy. Those qualities are all on display in his portrayal of the flamboyantly gay Barry Glickman. In “The Prom” he also displays some acting chops.

Beth Leavel as Dee Dee is his equal at being clueless. Leaval, who is best known for playing the title character in “The Drowsy Chaperone” (a work “The Prom” strongly resembles in tone) is a master of the delayed pause and stare. She can also belt out a song. Indeed, her rendition of “The Lady’s Improving “ stops the show.

The score is as satisfying as is the story. I don’t know that you’ll buy the cast album upon leaving the theater, but you’ll enjoy almost every number while inside it. There are several energetic dance numbers that add to the fun.

If you are in NYC and want a couple of happy hours in the theater you will not do much better than “The Prom.” In fact, it would be my first choice.

“The Prom,” is at the Longacre Theatre on 44thStreet in New York City for an open run. Tickets can be had through Telecharge 212-239-6200.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.