“The Prom” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – June 10, 2023


“The Prom”
The Phoenix Theatre Company, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

“The Prom” is a richly rewarding and charmingly fun-filled expose about tolerance, understanding, and acceptance. It is also an extravagant musical entertainment that explodes all over The Phoenix Theatre Company’s stage in a malarkey-ridden production that never forgets its message about open-mindedness.  The musical also slams Broadway hypocrisy and even wallops theater critics who with a pointed review can close a show after a single performance.

Set in small-town Edgewater, Indiana, a PTA mother tries to cancel the high school, prom because a lesbian student wants to bring her partner to the party. Such things are not tolerated in rural towns.

“The Prom” always keeps things fun as explosively staged musical numbers delight but the show never stops throwing jabs and digs emphasizing the importance of equality. Cynical New York performers – DeeDee, a Broadway “star,’ Barry, a superficial and snotty Broadway snob, Trent, a between Broadway “gigs” bartender, and longtime “Chicago” understudy Angie who has never gone on as the star – invade the town as they find a cause that doesn’t relate to their hated and haughty attitudes.

They start out over-the-top, but they settle down to make the town understand how wrong their prejudices are. They find student Emma’s plight with her partner Alyssa on social media and decide to fix it.  Their “fix” is discovered by the high school principal forcing them to repair themselves as well.

Huge production numbers staged with gusto and wild energy by director Michael Barnard and choreographer Lauran Stanis keep the story light as the ramifications on daily life and prom planning impact everyone.  The magnificent staging is enhanced by a superb cast who essay the roles with sincerity and honesty.

The two students – Hahnna Christianson as Emma and Tara Venkataraman as Alyssa – believe in their relationship but reveal their persuasions differently and they sing with fervor.  As arrogant and overly theatrical DeeDee, Debby Rosenthal grows the most and sings strongly as she settles for local principal Hawkins played with earnest stability by Matravius Avent.  Rusty Ferracane couldn’t be funnier as stuck-up gay actor Barry who gets close to Emma as he begins to understand the realities of life.  Long-legged Kate E. Cook has a field day kicking up her heels as Angie, the forgotten “Chicago” trouper.  Alyssa Chiarello’s know-it-all Mrs. Greene gets her due and Lucas Coatney uses limp-wristed frivolity as Trent, the performer turned bartender.  A large ensemble dance and sing with playful abandon.

TPTC’s superbly entertaining but thoughtful “The Prom” only plays until July 9.  When word gets around, tickets will be scarce. To order tickets, call The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A