Review: ‘Prom’ season is excessive on the Ahmanson Theatre

It’s apparently promenade season on the L.A. Music Middle. Individuals are strolling of their satiny greatest to the Ahmanson Theatre, just a few having draped themselves with banners declaring themselves king or queen of the evening.

This cosplay is occasioned by the L.A. premiere of “The Prom,” the 2018 Broadway musical that gave rise to the 2020 movie starring Meryl Streep and James Corden. The present feels prefer it’s been round for ages, however that’s in all probability as a result of the film continues to be streaming on Netflix.

Wednesday’s opening evening viewers for the nationwide tour manufacturing appeared to have its justifiable share of repeat viewers. “The Prom” hasn’t developed a full-blown cult like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Nevertheless it has a faithful following that appreciates the musical’s constructive LGBTQ+ message.

Once I first noticed the present in New York, I used to be incapacitated with laughter throughout the first half-hour. The musical’s setup is camp heaven. Two Broadway egomaniacs, Dee Dee Allen and Barry Glickman, are awaiting the evaluations of their new musical “Eleanor! — The Eleanor Roosevelt Musical.”

All appears to be nicely as bubbly is poured and congratulations prolonged for a rave from a New Jersey newspaper. However then the New York Occasions buries Dee Dee and Barry alive. Different evaluations go away little doubt that opening evening can even be closing evening.

“What didn’t they like?” Barry wonders cluelessly. “Was it the hip-hop?” Sheldon, the present’s publicist, explains that it’s not the present; it’s the celebs. “You’re not likable. Narcissists,” he explains as if talking to a pair of getting older toddlers, aren’t often fan favorites.

The social gathering rapidly turns into a funeral. Two out-of-work actors, Trent Oliver, who’s perpetually reminding everybody that he’s a graduate of Juilliard, and Angie, a leggy refrain woman who simply stop her job in “Chicago” after 20 years of not being requested to play Roxy, supply their commiseration. Collectively this quartet hatches a rescue plan to remodel Dee Dee and Barry from egocentric has-beens to superstar activists.

An article on Twitter a couple of younger lesbian named Emma in Edgewater, Ind., whose highschool promenade was canceled to forestall her from attending together with her girlfriend, arms them a surefire social media trigger. The group hops on a bus headed to the Midwest with a non-equity solid of “Godspell.” Dee Dee threatens to boost “holy hell.” Barry, who will get Sheldon to tag alongside to make sure ample publicity, vows, “We’re gonna help that little lesbian whether she likes it or not.”

The e-book by Bob Martin (a co-creator of “The Drowsy Chaperone”) and Chad Beguelin (whose Tony-nominated credit embrace “Aladdin” and “The Wedding Singer”) reaches a deadly over-the-top altitude. On Broadway, the present discovered the proper leads in Beth Leavel and Brooks Ashmanskas to carry the Broadway excesses of Dee Dee and Barry to non-hackneyed life. There was astute satire of their portrayal of the hypocritical diva antics of “liberal democrats from Broadway.” They have been enjoying sorts, to make sure, however with the granularity of backstage perception and prickly skilled expertise.

Kaden Kearney, left, and Kalyn West within the nationwide tour of “The Prom.”

(Deen van Meer)

The movie lacked the identical theatrical credibility. Streep and Corden wallowed in Broadway cliches, generally deliciously, each every now and then riotously, however hardly ever if ever with truthful originality. The film couldn’t duplicate the giddy liftoff of the unique Broadway firm. However the movie was maybe simpler in coping with the sentimental flip within the story. The plight of a lesbian teen, estranged from her dad and mom and alienated at her college, emotionally registers within the sympathy of the starry solid.

On the Ahmanson, the manufacturing, directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, goes massive and broad. Alternatives for subtlety, although few and much between, are mown down with theatrical oomph. The present’s advertising and marketing underscores the “live” facet of this encounter with “The Prom” — and liveliness appears to be the corporate’s fundamental purpose.

Performing, design and choreography conspire to maintain us in excessive spirits, however the general result’s blended. It is a two-act musical that would afford to lose at the least 20 minutes of padding. Neither my companion nor I used to be stunned to see the viewers skinny out round us after intermission.

The e-book, which will get convoluted, isn’t the only drawback. The rating, by Matthew Sklar (music) and Beguelin (lyrics), plunks down numbers that, within the second act particularly, stall momentum. Sklar and Beguelin are beneficiant to a fault with the principle characters, letting them sing about personal considerations whereas the plot impatiently faucets its watch.

Courtney Balan performs Dee Dee in a brassy comedian mode that evokes at instances “Saturday Night Live” alum Cheri Oteri. Such an exaggerated method is maybe higher suited to skits, however Balan compensates with indefatigable musical showmanship. Patrick Wetzel’s Barry shies away from dopey, stereotypical flamboyance, which isn’t any straightforward job when enjoying a personality who describes himself as “gay as a bucket of wigs.”

Bud Weber’s Trent and Emily Borromeo’s Angie appear content material to kick up their heels as Broadway cartoons. Shavey Brown delivers Sheldon’s PR quips with ample punch. As Mr. Hawkins, the empathetic and morally upright principal at Emma’s college (who seems to be a hardcore fan of Dee Dee’s), Sinclair Mitchell imparts a real sweetness. Ashanti J’Aria performs Mrs. Greene, the PTA villain, as a mother on a misguided mission to guard her daughter.

This incarnation of “The Prom” is memorable largely for the fantastically balanced efficiency of UC Irvine MFA performing grad Kaden Kearney as Emma. Giving equal because of the painful actuality of her character and to the comedy exploding throughout her, she is remarkably tender in her scenes with Kalyn West, who reprises her assured and deeply felt Broadway efficiency as Alyssa, Emma’s not-yet-out girlfriend.

Kearney soars most spectacularly when in musical flight. Whether or not letting unfastened with the solid in exuberant ensemble numbers or confiding her fact to her laptop computer in “Unruly Heart,” her virtuosity consolidates the viewers’s love and concern for her character.

The delights of the “The Prom” have light for me over time. However the musical’s compassionate message by no means fails to elicit from my keyboard a string of coronary heart emojis.

‘The Prom’

The place: Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and eight p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Ends Sept. 11. (Name for exceptions)
Tickets: $40-$145 (topic to alter) 
Info: (213) 972-4400 or centertheatregroup.org 
Operating time:  2 hours, half-hour, with one intermission 
COVID protocol: Masks are required always. (Verify web site for modifications.)