“The Prom” review: Can Broadway actors fix intolerance?

THE+PROM+%28L+to+R%29++NICO+GREETHAM+as+NICK%2C+LOGAN+RILEY+HASSEL+as+KAYLEE%2C+ARIANA+DEBOSE+as+ALYSSA+GREENE%2C+ANDREW+RANNELLS+as+TRENT+OLIVER%2C+JO+ELLEN+PELLMAN+as+EMMA%2C+SOFIA+DELER+as+SHELBY%2C+NATHANIEL+POTVIN+as+KEVIN%2C+TRACEY+ULLMAN+as+VERA%2C+JAMES+CORDEN+as+BARRY+GLICKMAN+in+THE+PROM.+Cr.+MELINDA+SUE+GORDON%2FNETFLIX+%C2%A9+2020

THE PROM (L to R) NICO GREETHAM as NICK, LOGAN RILEY HASSEL as KAYLEE, ARIANA DEBOSE as ALYSSA GREENE, ANDREW RANNELLS as TRENT OLIVER, JO ELLEN PELLMAN as EMMA, SOFIA DELER as SHELBY, NATHANIEL POTVIN as KEVIN, TRACEY ULLMAN as VERA, JAMES CORDEN as BARRY GLICKMAN in THE PROM. Cr. MELINDA SUE GORDON/NETFLIX © 2020

By Aaron Grossman, Cappies critic

Ahh, high school prom. A night filled with dancing, photos and…singing? After many years of development and a short run on Broadway, an unforgettable movie musical adaptation of “The Prom” has made its way to Netflix. 

The movie musical “The Prom” is an adaptation of the 2018 Broadway musical of the same name and is based on a true story of intolerance that took place in Bullpuck, Ind., in 2010. The PTA of Madison High School voted to cancel the spring prom over LGBTQ+ student Emma Nolan’s request to attend the dance with her girlfriend, Alyssa Greene. When word reaches Broadway actors Dee Dee Allen, Barry Glickman, Angie Dickinson and Trent Oliver in between gigs looking for publicity, they hop on a bus down to Bullpuck and storm a meeting with a loud, theatrical message of tolerance. Chaos ensues as the liberal Broadway actors try to make a difference while coming face to face with bigotry in a small town. 

Overall, the film is an upbeat emotional rollercoaster with an A-list cast and a great message. Director Ryan Murphy’s adaptation fixed some of the original show’s profound issues but exasperated others. For instance, Murphy was able to use the nature of movie production to include lavish sets and up-close camera shots, just not possible on Broadway. While entertaining, the new music and expanded side plots made the already drawn-out narrative less intriguing. The show’s political issues, such as dramatizing traumatic events still happening today, that could make some viewers uncomfortable.  

An amazing cast of top-notch film actors brought the show to life in stunning movie fashion. Newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman as Emma stole the viewer’s hearts with professional vocals and acting. Meryl Streep was an amazing fit for Dee Dee Allen with tons of charm and sass. James Corden’s Barry Glickman was good, but his vocals and American accent needed some work. Andrew Rannell’s Trent Oliver fit his personality perfectly, along with his stellar voice. Ariana DeBose perfectly portrayed Alyssa Greene with an impressive voice and precise emotions. And finally, the film’s ensemble, dancers and other characters perfectly supported the story with crisp vocals and energizing dance moves.  

The film’s technical aspects sold the experience, sucking the viewer into the story. The film’s cinematography and sets were all impressive. However, the audio had distinct sounds between studio-recorded musical numbers and dialogue filmed on set, distracting the viewer. I also found that the mix of the many musical numbers suppressed the outstanding harmonies in Matthew Sklar’s original score. Nonetheless, the film was of the top-notch quality you would expect from a big budget and the Netflix quality brand.  

Netflix’s “The Prom” has an overall good message of acceptance and an undeniably fun narrative, making it 100% worth a watch.