Netflix’s Spectacular New Movie-Musical: The Prom


Anna Porter, Staff Writer

In my opinion, movie-musicals are hit or miss, and The Prom was a hit. It is a story surrounding Emma Nolan who is a queer 16 year old girl living in Indiana. When the PTA cancels prom to prevent Emma from attending with her girlfriend, a group of down on their luck Broadway actors come to Indiana to advocate for Emma.  Emma is played by up and coming musical sensation Jo Ellen Pellman. The movie touched on so many important issues in today’s society such as LGBTQ+ rights, how people in that community are treated and how people can change for the better.

This movie stands out because the cast is full of musical theatre icons such as Meryl Streep, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, and Ariana Debose. It was one of the first musical-movies that I have seen where the whole lead cast was from a musical theatre background and I really think it added to the quality of the movie. Along with an amazing cast the writers were terrific. You really felt as though you were there and I especially loved all the references to other musicals.

After Into the Woods(2014) and Cats(2019) it may feel as though James Corden finds himself cast in what seems to be every movie adaptation of a musical, but his performance in The Prom was impressive.  I thought he brought so much love, kindness and a vulnerability to the role that I had never seen in him before. However there has been controversy about a straight man playing a very stereotypical gay character and that is a valid point considering the movie is about advocating for gay rights. I do believe that the character would have been more impactful if played by a gay actor.

After listening to the original Broadway cast recording, I wasn’t sure about a movie adaptation but I was pleasantly surprised. I was most worried about the singing. I always find that I am let down by the vocal ability of some people cast in movie-musicals but this was not the case at all. Everyone hit the notes perfectly, no songs had to be drastically changed to fit the actors vocal range and everyone made the songs their own. The dances were so well thought out and the choreography really was amazing to watch. 

All the characters had a moment to shine, each song better than the last, each dance number more fast paced and energetic. Not to mention the costumes were so bright and vivid. They really embodied the sense of acceptance and inclusion when choosing costumes and sets. It encapsulates the flair and flamboyance of Broadway and transfers it into a movie. It is a hard thing to do but they definitely pulled it off.

In a behind the scenes interview Jo Ellen Pellman who plays Emma said “What I think is so great about our movie is that anyone can watch this and feel accepted and engrossed in the story. This is a story for everyone.” 

This story is told from a point of view we don’t see very often. We don’t see too much LGBTQ+ representation in movies and tv and when we do it’s the somewhat offensive stereotypical gay best friend. This was the first time I have seen a female main character who is openly gay. She was portrayed as just a normal person as everyone should be and it was nice to see. This movie gives hope for a better, more inclusive future, not only in the media but in society as a whole. As Jo Ellen Pellman says, “The movie shows young LGBTQ kids across the world that they are worthy of a big movie-musical happy ending… and that they are never alone.”