The Prom centers around a small town in Indiana which manages to cancel the High School Prom because a female student named Emma (Pellman) is seeking to bring her girlfriend to the dance. Self-involved actors Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep), Barry Glickman (James Corden), Trent (Andrew Rannells), and Angie (Nicole Kidman) get wind of this story and want to use this social cause to help raise their celebrity profile. Emma’s high school principal (played by Keegan-Michael Key) certainly welcomes all the help he can get, but the head of the PTA (played by Kerry Washington) sees things differently. She doesn’t want her daughter Alyssa (Ariana Debose) going to a school where girls like other girls. Of course, the twist is Alyssa is in love with Emma but can’t bring herself to come out to her very conservative mother.
The Prom is such a joyful experience for families and even the most cynical film critics. While most are excited about Ryan Murphy’s latest project due to the all-star cast he’s assembled, the fortunes of this stage to screen adaption ride on the performances of Jo Ellen Pellman and Ariana Debose. Each actress gives an emotionally charged performance, which is the heart of this narrative. Without Pellman and Debose, The Prom would have lacked heart, which is crucial to this story’s success. Sometimes, casting is everything, and chemistry cures all. Meryl Streep, James Corden, Kerry Washington, Nicole Kidman, and the whole cast understood that.
Murphy’s adaptation of Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin, and Matthew Sklar’s award-winning musical captures the spirit of the original stage show without compromising any of the messages in the narrative. The staging and costuming stand out as well. It’s bold, bright, and illuminating every inch of every scene. Streep, Corden, Kidman, Rannells, and Key form a tremendous ensemble. Pellman and Debose are a revelation. Casting these two actresses legitimately took this release to another level. It’s not hard to see The Prom being a Golden Globe darling down the road.
Overall, this is by far the best work Ryan Murphy has done cinematically. The Prom shows us all the power of acceptance and how love can bridge the widest of gaps.