Lyric Theatre Brings Song, Dance and Nostalgia to Oklahoma City with “The Prom”
Lyric Theatre is presenting an Oklahoma premiere of “The Prom” a 2018 Broadway hit with book and lyrics by Chad Beguelin, Book by Bob Martin and Music by Matthew Sklar. The production is based on an original concept by Jack Viertel. Artistic Director Michael Baron directs and Amy Reynolds Reed does the choreography on this very vibrant musical that is very strong on athletic, intricate and exciting dance moves. Music Director David Andrews Rogers makes the most of every song, an audience favorite being “Dance With You” among the many exciting vocal highlights.
The story line is about a group of extremely narcissistic actors who have just closed the show about Eleanor Roosevelt on opening night. It is hard to imagine a dancing Eleanor, and of course FDR is in a wheelchair. However, it becomes clear in “The Prom” that anyone who is wheelchair bound can still dance! In order to improve their image they find a cause to embrace and use for good publicity. That cause is the unfortunate circumstance in a small town in Indiana. Edgewater, Indiana is a good solid Christian town and they are very uncomfortable with the modern tolerance toward alternative sexuality so they have canceled the high school prom because an honor student, Emma, who happens to be a lesbian, wishes to attend with her girlfriend. The pillars of the community can not stand this happening, although many of the good Christians are appalled at the cruelty and underhandedness behind the moves made by these paragons of virtue at the PTA.
The four narcissist actors are Broadway star, Dee Dee Allen, her co-star, Barry Glickman, starlet, Angie and up and coming television and stage actor Trent Oliver. The four actors along with announcer, Sheldon, travel to Edgewater to create a stir around the prom and manage to get the prom reinstated, but, Emma, the young lesbian is having a bit of trouble because her girlfriend, Alyssa is afraid to come out. It is no wonder-Alyssa’s mother, Mrs. Greene, is the prime mover behind the actions of the PTA. Chaos ensues, but in addition to the primary love story between Emma and Alyssa, the principal of the school, Mr. Hawkins, has long been a fan of Dee Dee Allen. He travels to New York regularly to attend Broadway shows and his favorite actress is the beautiful and very talented Dee Dee. Dee Dee and Mr. Hawkins also fall in love as Hawkins helps her overcome her selfishness and join the ranks of the human race.
Along with the community resistance to any LGBTQ activity the teenagers in the school reflect the attitudes of their parents and Emma is bullied unmercifully and blamed for the prom cancellation. Alyssa fears to come out in this environment and their relationship is jeopardized. Amid the confusing events a bright spot comes from Barry Glickman who is a very flamboyant gay man identifying with Emma and resolves to make the prom happen no matter what. He also resolves to help her get dressed and the two develop a very strong emotional bond.
Somehow everything works out with lovers in love again, Christians remember that a foundation of their religion is tolerance, parents and teens alike resolve not to bully and narcissists lose their selfish focus, even while they retain that necessary element of narcissism that actors must have in order to perform.
Lindsie Guthrie portrays Dee Dee Allen beautifully with all the unbelievably expressive talent that the Broadway star has oozing from her own pores. Jerry Jay Cranford is Barry Glickman, enthusiastic, extremely talented and quite flamboyant, yet genuine in his core. The chorus girl Angie is equally vibrant and excitingly portrayed by Lexi Windsor while Trent Oliver is played expertly by Nicholas Rodriguez. The role of Principal Hawkins is undertaken by Ashton Byrum and his character complements Dee Dee Allen perfectly. Sheldon Saperstein is played with interest and intelligence by Sheldon MBA, while the announcer at the top of the show is Olivia Keating played by Mariah Warren who also understudies Sheldon.
The young lady Emma is wonderfully played by Emilee Stubbs who has a great set of pipes. She portrays a typical teen, yet one who doesn’t fit in because of her alternate sexuality. She doesn’t cope well with the bullying from former friends that occurs, especially when she is blamed for the prom cancellation. Her significant other is the popular Alyssa elegantly portrayed by Saoirse Ryhn. Ryhn expertly bridges the difficulty of coming out in an atmosphere where her mother, Mrs. Greene, is adamantly against homosexuals. Mrs. Greene is played with just the right touch of hypocrisy by Gena Valentine Byrum.
The remaining 37 ensemble cast members create an energetic group of teen performers as well as various touring actors and others. This is a very talented group of young people with excellent vocal and dance ability. Choreographer Amy Reynolds Reed has a lot of talent to work with creating a great dance show, important at any prom. Their vocal abilities match their movements quite well. David Andrews Rogers has a great deal to be proud of, and an excellent orchestra to boot!
And of course, the hard work and dedication from Michael Baron is just one more example of Baron’s superb directing skills.
Tuesday, July 11, is opening night, a night often fraught with theatrical dangers and sometimes a problem occurs that nearly stops a show dead in its tracks. And so it happens that Jerry Jay Cranford as Barry Glickman suffering a minor accident, and suddenly no longer able to perform the energetic dance moves of his character. He brought forth the wheelchair from his FDR role and performed the remainder of the show in the chair. In the upcoming performances he may still be performing from the wheelchair, although the injury is apparently minor so he may be able to go without at some point. Either way, Cranford has the energy, determination and stamina to use his upper body to create the kind of moves that are inspirational, and the wheelchair in no way impacts his performance. In some ways, the performance is enhanced! The other performers are adapting beautifully, and either way, the show impresses as well as delights with the animated gyrations of Cranford equalling the impressive dance moves of the other players. Baron and Reed must be very pleased!
“The Prom” is being presented at the Civic Center Music Hall in downtown Oklahoma City at 201 N. Walker Avenue from Tuesday, July 11 through Sunday, July 16, 2023. Performance times are 7:30 pm during the weekdays and 8:00 pm Friday and Saturday evening. The Sunday matinee is 2:00 pm. For tickets and information contact Lyric Theatre www.LyricTheatreOKC.com (405) 524-9312 or the Civic Center Box Office at www.OKCCivicCenter.com only. “The Prom” is an exciting new musical destined to become a classic. The athleticism in the strong performances is exciting for any audience.