A Quarter-Life Crisis at The Prom

A Quarter-Life Crisis at The Prom

Warning: personal post ahead. Apologies for lack of filter.

As of yesterday, August 11th, I am now 25 years old. I am a quarter of a century old. I have really taken to calling my birthday this year my “quarter-life crisis” for two reasons. The first is that I’ve turned 25. (It’s scary to grow up.) The other reason is a lot harder for me to grapple with - The Prom closed on my 25th birthday. 

I’ve been alive 25 years and a fan of theatre for 21 years, and have faced my fair share of closings - four of my top 5 favorite shows of all time have closed in the past two years. Yet this is the first time I’ve had to deal with a show near and dear to my heart closing on my birthday. My birthday should be a day of celebrating with friends and loved ones, having fun and doing something enjoyable. This year, I spent the day at the closing performance of a show that meant so much to me in the too-short time it was on Broadway. I had to say goodbye to my favorite midwestern lesbians and the liberal Democrats from Broadway who helped them build an inclusive prom in the face of prejudice and homophobia. I had to say goodbye to a cast who came to be like a family to me; I know I say this about a lot of casts of shows I love, but the cast of The Prom is a truly special case. They reached out to me in a time of immense struggle and self-doubt (thanks to some cowardly cyberbully) and made me feel like I mattered. Chris Sieber, Caitlin Kinnunen, Angie Schworer, Courtenay Collins, and everyone in the cast really looked out for me this year, and I’m truly grateful.

I try to see myself in the characters of shows I love - Nigel Bottom’s passion for truthful theatre, SpongeBob’s unflagging optimism in the face of despair, Pythio’s pride in their non-binary identity - and The Prom on Broadway was no exception. It hurts I’ll never again be able to see Emma Nolan fight for acceptance as a lesbian in a community that doesn’t fully understand her. It stings that I’ll never again get to see Emma’s closeted girlfriend Alyssa Greene find the courage to come out to her homophobic mother. I’m certain I’ll never cry the same kind of stinging, ugly tears that flowed every time I watched Caitlin Kinnunen pour her soul into “Unruly Heart.” Nothing will ever come close to repeating the perfect lighting strike of a show The Prom was on Broadway.

We may be losing the show on Broadway, but there will be a tour in the near future. And despite that, there’s still a Prom-sized elephant in the room I’d like to discuss. I never got to talk about it when it was announced, but the fact we’re getting a Netflix movie adaptation of The Prom without the Broadway cast feels like a slap in the face to the spirit of the material. The show is a love letter to Broadway actors who never got the acclaim they deserved at the height of their powers, and the fact that Beth Leavel and Brooks Ashmanskas are being replaced by Meryl Streep and James Corden for the movie still baffles me. Dee Dee is known for her belt and Barry is gayer than a bucket of wigs - I cannot fathom how Ryan Murphy had them and not the Broadway names or even Broadway-adjacent names as his first choices to play Dee Dee and Barry in the movie. (We could have had Christine Baranski and Nathan Lane, in a perfect world…) I’m sure Nicole Kidman and Andrew Rannells will be fine as Angie and Trent, and we’ve dodged a bullet with Ariana Grande no longer attached as Alyssa. I’m just… so gobsmacked by how unfair it is that Ryan Murphy can make The Boys In The Band a film with the entire Broadway cast but not The Prom. At this point, I wish we’d have just gotten a pro-shot. It’s what the show should have gotten before closing, not a teenager’s Instagram dream cast. 

That’s the thing that hurts the most about losing The Prom prematurely. Its post-Tonys ticket sales have upticked enormously. (Sadly, that’s mostly due to it closing.) Twenty years from now, I’m so nervous that when people think of this musical, it won’t be its perfect Broadway cast but the made-for-Netflix movie. That’s not what this cast deserves. This show deserved so much better, and I’m so sad we had to lose it so quickly… and on a day that I could have spent eating birthday cake and drinking cocktails with my best friends. 

It shouldn’t be time to wallow in sorrow. Let’s celebrate the show for the good it did the community. Without this show we’d been denied the first lesbian kiss on the Macy’s parade! It’s been months since that happened and it’s still thrilling to think about! Plus they did it again on the Tonys! So many young people have been touched by this show while it was on Broadway - myself included - and that, I think, will last longer than any Netflix celebrity remake will stick in the mind of the public. 

They built a prom, and it was pretty damn wonderful. It hurts to say goodbye, but as with most things in life, all good things must come to an end.