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Theatre / The Prom

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The Prom is a musical comedy based on an original concept by Jack Viertel, with music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and a book by Beguelin and Bob Martin. The show is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. The Prom had its world premiere in Atlanta, Georgia in 2016 and had its first Broadway preview October 23, 2018, officially opening on November 15. It closed nine months later but will begin a national tour in 2021.


The story revolves around 17-year-old lesbian Emma, who becomes a headline when the PTA of her Indiana high school cancels the prom rather than let her attend with her girlfriend. In New York, four veteran Broadway actors in need of good publicity hear of this and decide to go to Indiana to fix this injustice. Shenanigans inevitably ensue.

The Prom itself made both headlines and history shortly after its opening, when its performance at the 2018 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade included the first broadcast same-sex kiss in the parade's 92-year history.

A novelization was released in September 2019. A film adaptation is in the works by Ryan Murphy on Netflix. To be released in late 2020, the cast currently includes Meryl Streep, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, Nicole Kidman, Awkwafina, Keegan-Michael Key and Kerry Washington.


This show provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Emma's parents threw her out of the house upon learning that she was a lesbian. Her girlfriend Alyssa's mother has elements of this too, although she genuinely believes she's doing the best for her daughter.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: Averted - while real life events and stories about same-sex couples being denied their proms inspired the musical, it is a completely original show. In an interesting turn of events, both a Netflix movie and a YA novel adaptation have been announced since the show's Broadway opening.
  • ...And That Little Girl Was Me: Parodied. Angie tells Emma the story of a cast member in the original production of Chicago who got cast as Roxie after everyone in the cast got sick.
    Emma: Was that you?
    Angie: Just how fucking old do you think I am?
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  • The Big Damn Kiss: Emma and Alyssa at the prom during the finale of the show.
  • BSoD Song: The song "Alyssa Greene" is about Alyssa's frustration towards her controlling mother and how she wishes that she could simply live her life on her own terms. It starts angry but dissolves into sadness, and is also the point in the story where Emma and Alyssa break up.
  • Camp Gay: Barry in spades. Sheldon, the group's PR manager, also qualifies.
  • Character Development: Every character, but particularly the narcissistic Barry and Dee Dee, once they start communicating with the townspeople of Edgewater, Indiana. Emma and Alyssa, too, both undergo development over the course of the show.
  • Closet Key: Emma may be implied to have been this for Alyssa prior to the events of the show, as one of Alyssa's sung lines refers to not being honest with herself before she met Emma.
  • Crowd Pleaser: The Broadway actors, but particularly Barry and Dee Dee.
  • Dance of Romance: Emma and Alyssa at the prom, which has been their dream for the whole show.
  • Dark Reprise: Emma's reprise of "Tonight Belongs to You" after walking into the empty gym and realizing that the entire school has tricked her into attending a fake prom by herself.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Lampshaded during the song "Love Thy Neighbor".
    Trent: Let's hope you don't masturbate 'cause the scripture says we'll have to cut off your... hands.
  • Disappeared Dad: Alyssa's father abandoned her and her mother some time prior to the events of the plot, although it's never stated why.
  • The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Unruly Heart", which Emma writes and performs in-universe about her character growth and how she won't let other people dictate how she's going to live her life. She's joined by the ensemble appearing as LGBTQ youth across the country, an indication of her video starting to go viral.
  • Hot Teacher: Dee Dee certainly seems to think this about Mr. Hawkins, the school's principal.
  • "I Am Becoming" Song: As mentioned above, "Unruly Heart" is this for Emma. "The Lady's Improving" serves as this for Dee Dee, too, signalling her change to becoming a more selfless person.
  • "I Am Great!" Song: Before that character development, Dee Dee's "It's Not About Me" contains a lot of references to her sense of self-worth and inflated ego. Likewise, the show's opening number "Changing Lives" is about how Barry and Dee Dee view themselves as influencers before their show Eleanor!: The Eleanor Roosevelt Story closes on opening night.
  • "I Am" Song: "Just Breathe" for Emma, as it's the first time the audience hear her sing, and the song is about how she's trying to stay optimistic and how she attempts to cope with the people she's surrounded by at school.
  • "I Want" Song: "Dance with You", Emma and Alyssa's duet, is a classic and touching example about how they don't want to cause controversy but instead simply wish to dance with each other at prom.
  • Intertwined Fingers: Emma and Alyssa multiple times in private and then in public after Alyssa comes out.
  • Large Ham: Every single one of the New York characters, but particular mention goes to Trent Oliver. He went to Julliard and he will not let you forget it.
  • Let's Duet: Emma and Alyssa a few times through the show - "Dance with You" as mentioned above and then also during "You Happened" and the short reprise of "Dance with You" at the beginning of the finale number. Averted, however, for Dee Dee and Hawkins, the show's other romantic couple.
  • Longing Look: Not hugely noticeable, but Emma and Alyssa steal a lot of looks during Act One, especially before the reveal that Alyssa is the mystery girlfriend who Emma wanted to bring to prom.
  • Love Confession: Alyssa comes out to her mother and by extension everyone near the end of the show, which includes loudly declaring her love for Emma.
  • Masculine–Feminine Gay Couple: Emma is more butch (uncomfortable wearing a dress and much more comfortable in a tux) and Alyssa is more femme (being more comfortable in a dress), although neither of them verge into caricature territory.
  • Massive Multiplayer Ensemble Number: "Tonight Belongs to You", which features Emma and Barry, Alyssa and Mrs. Greene, and the rest of the kids preparing for the prom and serves as the climax to the end of Act One.
  • Media Scrum: The reporters questioning Mrs Greene at the beginning of Act Two after news of the fake prom gets out.
  • Misery Builds Character: Both Emma and Alyssa have a rough time of it during the events of the show, but they both come out the other side as stronger and more developed people.
  • My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Greene, without a doubt.
  • No Song for the Wicked: Mrs. Greene's only solo comes in "Tonight Belongs to You", although she's arguably an antagonist rather than a full villain.
  • Official Couple: Emma and Alyssa.
  • Opening Chorus: The curtain comes up on the opening night party of Eleanor!: The Eleanor Roosevelt Story and very quickly goes into the opening number, "Changing Lives".
  • Poster-Gallery Bedroom: Emma's bedroom contains a lot of small details, including Riverdale and Lady Bird posters, photo booth picture strips, a hermit crab, multiple Harry Potter books and even a troll doll.
  • Prom Is for Straight Kids: Challenging this view is essentially the core plot of the whole show.
  • The Promposal: An entire musical number dedicated to them! "You Happened" parallels the straight students' over-the-top public promposals with Emma and Alyssa's private one.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Dee Dee and Principal Hawkins.
  • Secret Relationship: Emma and Alyssa, for a year and a half.
  • Show Within a Show: Barry and Dee Dee open the musical on opening night of their new show Eleanor!: The Eleanor Roosevelt Story, playing FDR and Eleanor respectively. It's apparently terrible, and subsequently closes on opening night. Small tidbits about the show are revealed throughout the course of the story, including the fact that Eleanor included hip-hop music.
  • Silly Love Songs: "You Happened", a joyous and upbeat song about Emma and Alyssa's relationship (and to a lesser extent, Kaylee and Nick's as well as Shelby and Kevin's).
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: A lesbian variation - Alyssa is part of the popular crowd and Emma... is not.
  • The Something Song: Trent writes a so-called rousing anthem to perform at a monster truck rally in an attempt to encourage the people of the town to accept Emma and LGBTQ ideas as a whole. What does he name this anthem? "The Acceptance Song".
  • Spontaneous Choreography: Both played straight and averted, depending on the contextual situation of the number. For songs like "It's Not About Me" and "The Acceptance Song", it's very clear that the dance is choreographed in-universe, but "Love Thy Neighbor" on the other hand is an example of this trope.
  • Teens Are Monsters: The kids at the school, especially in Act One. They get better.
  • This Is a Song: "The Acceptance Song" is unashamedly this, played for comedy.
  • Villain Song: Although she's more of an obstacle than a full-on villain, Mrs. Greene has a rather suspicious sounding moment during "Tonight Belongs to You".
    Mrs. Greene: I don't like when strangers get in my way/Or anyone who messes with the PTA/Well maybe that's just me/But trust me/Fixing little problems is what I do/Now everyone is happy
  • Wham Line: "What's going on?" the end of Act One, when Emma discovers all of her classmates have set her up with a fake prom. It also leads to her breakup with Alyssa, as Emma doesn't believe that she didn't know.

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