The Prom at the Longacre Theatre
by Mo Brady
What is “zazz”? According to the character Angie in the new Broadway musical The Prom, zazz is guts, spunk and star quality. All attributes that this new show has in spades.
The Prom is a lark, but one with a lot of heart - a somewhat silly, but ultimately life-affirming triumph of entertainment. The spitfire dialogue and catchy music are written by Bob Martin, Chad Beguelin and Matthew Sklar. Responsible for the clever and toe-tapping stories of The Drowsy Chaperone and The Wedding Singer, they bring similar wit and wisdom to this story of four self-obsessed actors descending on small town Indiana.
One of those actors is Angie, a leggy, showbiz veteran played by Angie Schworer (a leggy showbiz veteran). Schworer’s impressive ensemble resume spans from opening The Will Rogers Rogers on Broadway in 1991 to closing Something Rotten! on Broadway in 2017. Here in The Prom, she shines with equal panache. Whether she’s delivering a stinging one-liner or sliding her remarkably long legs into the splits, she does it all with wit and confidence. In other words, with zazz.
Similarly, the show’s young ensemble performs with noteable zeal and gusto. Playing students and teachers of James Madison High School, the cast commits to the material with dedication and energy. In particular, the execution of Wayne “Juice” Marlins, Drew Redington and Kalyn West stood out - infusing the quick paced choreography with impressive specificity.
While The Prom is fast paced and fun, the ensemble keeps the stakes high without making their characterizations too broad. Specifically, the engaged but realistic presences of Mary Antonini and Fernell Hogan helped ground the story in reality, even when the circumstances border on ridiculous.
For all the high-energy choreography and comedic silliness, The Prom shines in its moments of emotional simplicity. Late in Act II, Emma (played by Caitlin Kinnunen) swiftly and clearly invites an audience of internet viewers into her “Unruly Heart.” When she is joined by the ensemble as community of others both in voice and spirit, her song soars into a memorable showstopper.
Casual observers may find similarities between The Prom and Mean Girls, also helmed by prolific director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw. But whereas Mean Girls entertains with biting humor, The Prom wears its heart proudly on its sleeve. The ensemble brings life and vitality to the production, one that both tugs on the audience’s heartstrings and delights delights them with zazz.