By Michelle Naidu
Picture Credits: Google Images
Pride is the ultimate celebration of love, and as Be More Chill’s Jeremy Heere says, “[After-school play] is a sign-up sheet for getting called gay.” So it’s fitting to celebrate the end of Pride month with The Prom musical soundtrack which is filled with both LGBTQ+ representation and thespians in their element.
The musical opens with ‘Changing Lives’ which immediately reminds me of ABBA’s Mamma Mia. The orchestration is big as we are introduced to our first couple characters, Dee Dee Allen and Barry Glickman from the Eleanor! The Eleanor Roosevelt Story. (“Broadway Mania” is such a nice nod, I’m assuming, to Theatermania and Broadwaycom.) Listening to the music, I can only imagine how amazing the dance breaks must be.
So the cast has found a worthy cause to help out in ‘Changing Lives (Reprise)’ by deciding to go to Indiana where prom is cancelled because a lesbian couple wants to attend. Oh, wow, they are not being PC regardless of what Barry says! This song is so upbeat and catchy even if you’d never sing or play it in polite company.
The Prom Musical Cast recording moves to Indiana where Emma is lamenting her fate of being gay in Indiana, thinking about places where she would be accepted. She’s bullied by her peers and in her inner monologue she tells herself to ‘Just Breathe’. The song is a contrast to the first two upbeat songs but really showcase Caitlin Kinnunen’s voice and the soulful lyrics make her such a relatable character. Mr Hawkins, her principal, is on her side and is trying to fight the PTA for her. Meanwhile the cast of Eleanor! The Eleanor Roosevelt Story arrives in Indiana and Dee Dee has a solo telling everyone ‘It’s Not About Me’. Sure, it’s not! Her belt is beautiful though.
We’re finally introduced to Alyssa, Emma’s girlfriend and daughter of the PTA head. Emma and Alyssa sing to each other, telling they don’t care about the statement they’re making, they simply want to ‘Dance with You’ (or each other in this case). The actresses, Caitlin Kinnunen and Isabelle McCalla’s voices blend beautifully together.
In ‘The Acceptance Song’, Trent, Dee Dee and Barry and the ensemble all get together and sing an anthem-like song urging everyone to be more accepting of each other and though their performance isn’t a success, the state’s attorney rules that the school must hold the prom.
The students prompose each other in ‘You Happened’ which might be the most adorable song in the cast recording, in my opinion. The song is such a bop, plus the harmonies, choreography and ensemble is the best. (Sidenote: “Life without you was no bueno” is the cutest!)
Mr Hawkins then tells Dee Dee about how much theatre means to him in ‘We Look To You’ which feels like an open letter from a theatre lover to their idol (i.e me to every Broadway artist that exists).
It’s finally the day of the prom and Barry is helping Emma embrace herself while giving her a makeover (“You be Elphie, I’m Galinda” I’m not screaming, you’re screaming!!) while Kaylee, Shelby, and Mrs Greene all get ready for the other prom the PTA is having across town all singing, ‘Tonight Belongs To You’.
Act 1 ends with Emma asking Alyssa to come out but she refuses.
Act 2 opens with Angie encouraging Emma to become the face of the media campaign in ‘Zazz’ which is reminiscent of Chicago’s Razzle Dazzle and All that Jazz. Meanwhile, Dee Dee apologizes to Mr Hawkins who was upset by her selfish motives behind helping Emma in ‘The Lady’s Improving’. Trent tries to change the minds of the students by quoting the scripture to make them see that they’re just being hypocritical, using religion as a reason to be homophobic but breaking the Word in their daily lives. Personally, I really like this song because a huge percentage of Christians use religion to justify homophobia and this song serves as the perfect retort! Plus, ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ is a beautiful sentiment.
‘Alyssa Greene’ is a heartbreaking song. The song’s namesake, tired of being pushed around by her mother, apologizes to Emma. But Emma is tired of all the drama and breaks up with her. (cue: my tears)
‘Barry Is Going To Prom’ is the most wholesome song on the entire planet, no lie! Brooks Ashmanskas as Barry is so adorable. Within the storyline, the song is sung after Emma asks him to be her date for a prom that all the actors are planning which will be super inclusive.
Emma for her part performs ‘Unruly Heart’ which goes viral and inspires the LGBTQ+ community around her, who sympathize and understand her position. This song really enforces the message that you are who you are, and you just have to embrace it. Also Caitlin Kinnunen delivers her vocals with so much emotion and depth, I’m a puddle of mush.
And finally, for the happily ever after, Alyssa and Emma make up and get their dance together in ‘It’s Time To Dance’ which is a perfect mirror to ‘Dance With You’ which brings the play to an end in a perfect circle. This is the kind of song that stays with you long after the show is over and I love that! The choreography is on point and so is the harmony. In short, everything you want in an ending song.
I guess, in conclusion, if you are looking for a musical that combines show-tuney musical theatre, contemporary music and an honest-to-God super adorable lesbian couple (yay representation!), The Prom is the musical for you! Seriously, give it a listen. (And then lament the illegality of bootlegs)