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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Theatre review: The Prom provides a perfect blend of laughter and tears

The Theatre Under the Stars production of The Prom plays in repertory with Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park until August 25.

With its exuberant energy, infectious melodies, and heartwarming message of acceptance, the vibrant Theatre Under the Stars production of The Prom captures the spirit of inclusivity in a theatrical experience that will leave audiences beaming with joy.

Set in the small town of Edgewater, Indiana, The Prom follows the story of Emma, a lesbian high school student who wants to attend the prom with her girlfriend. When the school board cancels the prom rather than allowing her to attend, a group of self-obsessed Broadway stars discover her plight and embark on a mission to champion her cause and salvage their tarnished public image.

Brianna Clark, Caitriona Murphy, Greg Armstrong-Morris and Anna Pontin in the Theatre Under the Stars production of The Prom. Photo by Emily Cooper Photography.
Brianna Clark, Caitriona Murphy, Greg Armstrong-Morris and Anna Pontin in the Theatre Under the Stars production of The Prom. Photo by Emily Cooper Photography.

One of the show’s greatest strengths lies in its outstanding ensemble cast, who skillfully bring their characters to life with charisma and impeccable comedic timing. The chemistry between the actors is palpable as they effortlessly convey the highs and lows of their characters’ journeys.

The standout performances of the night include Emma, portrayed by the talented and vocally impressive Anna Pontin, who captivates with her emotional depth, and the boisterously hilarious Broadway diva Dee Dee Allen, performed by scene-stealing powerhouse Caitriona Murphy who shines in every moment she appears on stage.

Greg Armstrong-Morris’s Barry Glickman involves comedic and emotional moments, which he plays perfectly as his character navigates his personal and professional challenges while supporting Emma’s quest to attend the prom with her girlfriend. Through his character arc, Barry explores themes of self-discovery, redemption, and the power of empathy.

The musical numbers are a delightful fusion of catchy tunes and meaningful lyrics, from the exhilarating opening number, Changing Lives, to the empowering anthem Breathe, and the infectious dance sequences of Zazz and Love Thy Neighbour. Each number is brought to life with dynamic choreography by Tracey Power, who also directs, and dazzling costumes by Stephanie Kong, creating a visually stunning spectacle.

The Prom’s message of acceptance and embracing individuality resonates deeply throughout the production as it deftly tackles important themes of LGBTQ+ rights, prejudice, and the power of empathy, all while maintaining an uplifting and comedic tone. The heartfelt moments are balanced with well-timed humour, providing a perfect blend of laughter and tears.

The production design deserves special mention for its seamless transitions between various settings, from Broadway’s vibrant streets to Edgewater’s intimate confines. Robert Sondergaard’s lighting and Brian Ball’s set pieces enhance the emotional impact of each scene, further immersing the audience in the story.

If there’s one minor flaw, a few secondary characters are somewhat underdeveloped, with limited opportunities to shine. However, this minor quibble doesn’t detract significantly from the overall experience.

Theatre Under the Star’s The Prom is a dazzling spectacle of joy, acceptance, and pure entertainment. This is a show that will leave you dancing in your seat, wiping away tears of laughter and emotion, and ultimately inspires to spread love and acceptance. Today, it serves as a reminder of the transformative power of compassion and the importance of embracing one’s true self.

The Prom with music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and a book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin. Based on an original concept by Jack Viertel. Directed by Tracey Power. A Theatre Under the Stars production. Playing in repertory with Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical on stage at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park (610 Pipeline Rd, Vancouver) until August 25. Visit tuts.ca for tickets and information.

Editor’s note (13 July): This review was revised to correctly identify Robert Sondergaard as the lighting designer.

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