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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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‘The Prom’ is a heartwarming showstopper

Divya Gupta / The Daily Northwestern
The Wirtz Center’s production of musical “The Prom” opened last weekend.

When three Broadway has-beens and a never-was combine forces to save their careers and a midwestern lesbian’s prom experience, chaos is bound to ensue. This is the gist of the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts’ latest production, “The Prom,” which opened Nov. 10.

The concept makes for an uproarious comedy but not the best musical.

If you are someone who despises musical theatre, “The Prom” will not be the one to spur a change of heart. The music, written by Matthew Sklar, echoes the sounds of Broadway past and present without any flair or reinvention. There’s a crumb of “A Chorus Line” here, a trace of “Chicago” there and a handful of contemporary Broadway’s milquetoast acoustics spread throughout. The saving grace of the underwhelming score was writer Chad Baguelin’s brilliantly funny lyrics.

The astounding quality of the production, directed and choreographed by Tor Campbell, an MFA graduate student studying directing, eclipses its minor flaws. His dazzling choreography is elevated by the production team’s keen eye for detail. And they were not afraid to pull out all the stops. Sequined clothes and colorful feather silks adorn the stage during some large numbers — a breathtaking sight.

Hair and makeup designer and Communication junior Mark Park’s work was particularly masterful. Communication junior Anne-Sophie Lacombe Garcia looks unrecognizable as Broadway diva Dee Dee Allen. Her heavily drawn eyebrows and dramatic eyeshadow is reminiscent of drag makeup.

The cast never missed a beat — figuratively and literally. Jokes in the dialogue (written by Baguelin and Bob Martin) seem to come a mile a minute, and the actors deliver them perfectly. Lacombe Garcia is fully immersed in her role, contorting her voice into the strained cadence of an older woman. Communication senior Daniel Calderon, who plays the miserable middle-aged actor Barry Glickman, was the funniest of the bunch. He manages to say a thousand words with the lift of an eyebrow or the tightening of the lips.

Communication sophomore Yumi Tallud gives a beautiful performance as Emma Nolan, the teenager ostracized by her classmates for wanting to take her girlfriend to the prom. They have a clear yet gentle voice, which weaves a softness into the intensity of Emma’s teen angst. I especially loved their performance during “Unruly Heart,” a song that Emma writes and posts online to share her story with the world. Members of the ensemble walk through the audience carrying phone lights during this number — it was a gorgeous lighting effect!

At its core, “The Prom” is a story about finding hope and friendship in unexpected places. Glickman does not get the career boost he hoped for after helping Nolan, but they do form a special bond, relating with each other’s struggles of being gay in an unaccepting world. And in the end, Emma gets the prom of her dreams, though it is not the prom she planned. If you’re in the mood for a feel-good spectacular, “The Prom” is just the right fix.

“The Prom” will continue its run at the Wirtz Center Thursday, Nov. 16, through Sunday, Nov. 19.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @jahariia

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