Ryan Murphy has had a hell of a career since Glee. He’s dipped his toes in everything from full on high concept soap operas to gripping dramas; to everything in-between. Naturally it makes sense to tap him for a musical with tons of star power, though in the case of The Prom, not everything translates tonally.
Based on the Broadway original, The Prom’s spotlight is centered on a high schooler named Emma, who was denied access to her prom for being gay. As soon as four washed-up stars (a star-studded lineup of Meryl Streep, James Cordon, Nicole Kidman and Andrew Rannells) hear about it in the news, they seize the opportunity for good publicity.
What commences from then on is an over-two-hour (and slightly too long) romp of loving, laughing, and understanding. You can pretty much see where the framework of the narrative is going around 15 minutes in, but it isn’t any less fun getting there. That fun, mind, is impeded a bit by bloat. This is Ryan Murphy we’re talking about: who infamously lets stories go on for far longer than they should, much to the chagrin of any sane editor. There are plenty of moments that could be cut with no consequence; but perhaps Murphy courts so many stars because they know all of their material will make it in the final cut.
With that in mind, one thing I really like about The Prom is that just about every character is given their moment in the sun. Quite frequently, even for ham-fisted reasons, the cast will break apart and get their own solo act. For cast members like Streep, Kidman, and Rannells, it’s a hoot to see them shine. And like Hairspray before it, there’s plenty of gag songs that are nearly as effective in live-action form as they are on the stage.
The songs are rooted in Broadway classics, and for the most part, stick in your mind later that day; either due to the catchy tune or the laugh-out-loud lyrics. Seeing a few of these acted out before my eyes added a little something extra that a soundtrack couldn’t match: but conversely, a several didn’t match up to the raw energy of the original cast. It’s par for the course for musical adaptations, but an issue Murphy doesn’t skirt here.
The Prom isn’t for everyone. It’s saccharine. It’s camp. It also demands a reverence for the theater and for musicals that a lot of people simply do not have. But it’s also a ton of fun, and the songs mostly carry over from the original with some clever film-upgraded set pieces. If you’re already a musical lover, you’ll find something to like here.