The Prom brings laughter and heartache to Alliance audience

Olivia Podber

The Prom,’’ the breakthrough musical directed by Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw, simultaneously stole hearts while calling attention to equal rights, an issue much bigger than just a school dance.

The musical, which closed its month-long run at the Alliance Theater last month, showcased lyrically superb songs, perfectly choreographed dance numbers, and an overall characterful and noteworthy cast. “The Prom,’’ headed for Broadway, was a never-ending experience of fun, complete with a story filled with controversy, nerves and optimism.

When Emma’s school’s PTA cancels her high school prom rather than letting her bring her girlfriend as her date, she along with her conservative Indiana school, rise to national fame. Aided by a handful of outdated celebrities who haven’t been in the spotlight in years seeking positive publicity, Emma fights against the bigotry she is experiencing at school as she seeks her true identity.

As I took my seat in the audience, I apprehensively waited to see if the musical would live up to the expectations set by such a renowned director. Nicholaw has worked on shows such as “Tuck Everlasting’’ and “The Book of Mormon.’’

As soon as the show started, however, I knew I would not leave disappointed. The first five minutes included over three sets and two musical numbers that blew me away. All together, the musical was a whirlwind of styles and emotions, alternating between slow somber scenes that made my heart ache and upbeat tunes to which I couldn’t help but tap my feet.

The scenes showing homophobia were distressing to watch, but as quickly as those scenes ended, they were replaced with hopeful songs and cheerful dances that reminded me that not all humanity is as conservative as it might be in Indiana.

My favorite parts of the musical were the actual prom scenes. The musical closed with an extravagant dance number, filled with an abundance of twinkling lights, dazzling dresses and immaculate suits and overplayed songs that were inherently catchy.

As outstanding as the music and the dancing were by themselves, “The Prom’’ would not have been such a success without the actors and actresses who perfectly complemented the script and the scenes.

Nicholaw didn’t skip any bases as exemplified in his choice of casting Broadway idol Beth Leaval as Dee Dee Allen, the egotistical megastar who helps Emma out as an excuse to call herself a social activist. However, the show was memorable not only because of the recognizable names but also the up-and-coming ones as well, such as fresh and young Caitlin Kinnuen taking on the challenging role of Emma.

The theater company pulled out all the stops when it came to “The Prom.’’ And now, with a shot at Broadway on the radar, all of the hardwork has paid off. While the triumphant musical’s time has ended in Atlanta, the impact it has had on the South’s theater industry is everlasting. Along with countless other plays and musicals, “The Prom” is the reason bigger audiences have come to expect more musicals and plays of its caliber, making Atlanta a sophisticated cultural haven.

The production brought endless emotion to the audience. It was impactful with the message of acceptance and unity that extended throughout the performance, while also being perfectly supplemented by light-hearted amusement. Through laughter and tears, there was never a dull moment watching The Prom.