• Leonor Di Felice

The Prom: Remake of the Broadway Show by Ryan Murphy

Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and James Corden give life to a colorful and exciting musical movie that will make you sing and get emotional at the same time!

Hello explorers, and welcome to this new episode of the Acting Explorers Club! Today's movie is very special: it sparkles an incredible amount of energy and has some wonderful actors starring in it… I am talking about The Prom, one of the latest Netflix productions!


This story was originally a Broadway show from 2018 written by Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin and Matthew Sklar. They took inspiration from the true story of a girl from Indiana who was banned from attending her high school prom with her girlfriend. The story was very discussed by the press and became famous all over the country.


Ryan Murphy, who you may know from the tv series Glee, is the director of this movie. He had the idea to transform the show into a film the first time he watched it on Broadway. What touched him, in particular, was the fact that he lived the same experience of not being able to attend prom with the person he loved. So he decided to give life again to this story that Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin adapted for the screen.

The challenges of interpreting a musical for an actor can be numerous! In this type of show performers need to act, sing and dance at the same time. For this reason, you can find different kinds of artists in a musical. Depending on their background, they will have to master other new skills: singers, for example, will have to learn acting and dancing. For us actors, instead, the challenge is singing and dancing.


It is always a good idea when you are trying to become a working actor to also take some dancing and singing classes. Although it is not required to have these skills, it is very common for casting directors to prefer artists with different talents! Of course, no one expects an actor to be the new Ariana Grande. Still, some basic singing or instrument playing can always turn out useful in some scenes.


But let's dive into this emotional story and learn a bit more about its plot!


Spoiler Free Plot

Emma Nolan (played by Jo Ellen Pellman) is a student from James Madison High School in Edgewater, Indiana. Like any other girl of her age, her dream is to attend prom with her sweetheart. The problem is that many people in the community cannot accept a girl being openly lesbian.


For this reason, they want to avoid at all costs letting her participate with her girlfriend. The most dedicated member of this mission is Mrs. Greene, head of the high school PTA. She is so focused on avoiding Emma attending that she announces the school's prom will be canceled.


The only people supporting Emma inside the school are Principal Tom Hawkins and Emma's Girlfriend, Alyssa, who is also Mrs. Greene's daughter. Of course, she is very scared about what could be her mother's reaction to her relationship, so she is still in the closet.

Meanwhile, in New York City, some Broadway stars (Meryl Streep and James Corden) just discovered that their show Eleanor! closes on opening night after being considered a flop by most of the critique.

Together with a barman (Andrew Rannells) who is also a Julliard graduate, and a performer from the chorus of Chicago (Nicole Kidman), they decide to change their destiny. They understand that they could use a cause to appear favorably to the public's eyes, so they start looking for the trending topics on Twitter and find out about Emma's situation.


At this point, the performers go to Indiana with a bus to help Emma have her prom and win back public opinion.


The Prom: actors, challenges and rehearsal

How do you think the cast prepared for this project? We know these actors for their amazing acting skills, but a musical is not a joke for anyone. This is what Meryl Streep, playing the role of Dee Dee Allen, said about her preparation for this role:


"It's strange, but every year I get older! Even though I'm into musicals, it was different for this one. The challenge was pretty tough, especially for my poor bad knee, but in the end it was even more difficult than I expected. For this reason, I trained a lot and all the instructors and teachers treated me with kindness. I have been preparing for more than eight weeks just for the physical part. I trained a lot!"


For what concerns Nicole Kidman, she thought that her previous experience with the musical was going to help, but look what she said:


"We did six weeks of rehearsals, it was a very, very, long time. I have to tell the truth, having had experiences in this context I thought it would be simpler, but one of the scenes, taken from the Chicago choreography, was one of the most difficult ever. We all trained a lot with patience. Luckily it was very rewarding and fun. I also remember exclaiming, very loudly, when I first saw one of Meryl's scenes, and I thought it was really, really cool."

Another important theme the movie put the lights on is journalists' critique and how they impact an actor's work. "I remember them all," James Corden says. "I wear them like bruises every day on my body, which is why I remember every single criticism I've ever received. Fortunately, I have family and friends who support and encourage me, and who don't make me think too much."

Something all the actors agree with is the secret for a good performance: rehearsal! For example, Kerry Washington (Mrs. Greene) says that for her is essential to associate the movement with the song. So she recreates it in her head and "sings the moves" until they are fully in her body. At that point, she can let go and let the body take it on.


Keegan-Michael Key, who plays Mr. Hawkins, says that the only way to do such a big choreography in the best way possible is to run it, and run it, and run it. Only then you start to feel the moves until the point you do not have to think about it anymore. Does this remind you of something? Yes, it is the same process you want to follow when learning your lines!

When you are filming, you have to think about so many things: repeating the same movements between one take and the other for continuity; keeping the correct position to avoid losing the camera's focus; interacting with other actors in the right way… And of course, creating the wonderful emotions the scene requires and offering them to the camera!


Can you imagine how hard it can be to do all these actions together without knowing your lines perfectly? It is complicated! One of the greatest risks is to offer a poor performance because you were so busy thinking about your lines that you could not focus on your emotions.


What we loved about The Prom

In the story, the reviews were really hard with Dee Dee and Barry's show. The same happened in real life with this movie: it did not amuse the critique. What is recriminated to The Prom is to be excessive, goofy, and corny.


Does this author agree? Not really. The Prom is a movie for young people that helps viewers put themselves in the shoes of a girl dealing with an organized action against her, only because she is part of the LGBTQI+ community. It does this with energy, beautiful songs, and emotional scenes that show the effect of intolerance on different life stages.


Why should a musical that celebrates diversity and tolerance be any less joyful and colorful? We are happy to know some movies can make us dance, have fun, and think about making a difference for our community.


The Prom is a big YES if you want to see some great acting, singing and dancing, and also learn more on how to respect and take care of others!

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