Opening the 2022-2023 season at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre is “The Prom”! Adapted for the stage from the hit Netflix movie, “The Prom” opens with Broadway performers Dee Dee Allen (Courtney Balan) and Barry Glickman (Patrick Wetzel) following opening night for their new (fictional) show based on Eleanor Roosevelt’s life story. After the musical receives terrible reviews, these Broadway starlets are left trying to figure out how to create positive publicity for themselves. Their team suggests finding a cause they can support to make a difference while also making headlines. They quickly discover a scandal in Edgewater, Indiana in which a high school student, Emma (Kaden Kearney) was banned from bringing her girlfriend to prom. The team decides to travel to Indiana to make a statement on gay rights and save the small-town prom.
Right off the bat, this musical gave me “Book of Mormon” vibes with its sense of humor: very on-the-nose somewhat offensive-feeling jokes meant to prove a point and make the audience laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Topics like the LGBTQ community, religion, and society are the main target of these jokes. A lot of the characters feel somewhat like overexaggerated caricatures intended to also have a comedic effect. If you are easily offended, I would definitely think twice before attending this show. You have to be able to have an open mind and a willingness to make fun of the way things are. I also felt many similarities with “Mean Girls” the musical in some of the sets, costumes, and themes of high school represented onstage.
One of my favorite numbers in the show is “The Acceptance Song” where the Broadway crew arrives in Indiana to make their initial statement sporting t-shirts that read “We’re All Lesbians”. This scene is so ridiculously hilarious I was laughing out loud throughout most of it. You can also visit the merch table in the lobby and snatch up one of these shirts for yourself in case you’re a fan of striking up conversation with strangers in your day-to-day life. Emily Borromeo as Angie absolutely slays in her rendition of “Zazz” in Act II, channeling her inner Roxie Hart when boosting Emma’s confidence. Patrick Wetzel really pulls at your heartstrings and quickly has the audience on his side through his naivety and fatherly characterization of Barry Glickman. Kadey Kearney as Emma perfectly embodies the awkwardness and coming-of-age of their character while also tackling many high belt numbers throughout the show.
Overall, I don’t think “The Prom” is for everyone, but it’s definitely a great way to attract a younger crowd in for the season and start things with a bang. If you’re willing to laugh at the strange and crazy thing that is life and have a sweet spot in your heart for the excitement and nostalgia of high school prom, this is absolutely the show for you. “The Prom” runs through this weekend (to October 2nd) at Shea’s and clocks in at 2 hours and 25 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. Don’t hesitate, get your tickets today!