From the Broadway stage to your couch at home, the Netflix hit The Prom has taken the theatre community by storm and offered a much needed escape from pandemic worries. The story follows four unlucky Broadway veterans who are looking to rehabilitate their tarnished careers by doing a charitable act. As they scroll through Twitter, they come across Indiana teen, Emma Nolan, who wants to take her girlfriend to the high school prom, but the PTA won't allow it. Naturally, the group of four go to Indiana to build this girl the prom of a lifetime, and open the eyes of her narrow-minded community.
The Prom originally opened on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre in November of 2018. New York Times critic Jesse Green called the show "a joyful hoot" and said, "it makes you believe in musical comedy again." But that rave review wasn't enough to keep the show going, and it ran for only nine months before closing in August of 2019. Disheartened fans, however, were thrilled by the prospect of a movie version of The Prom coming to Netflix in December of 2020!
On December 11th, the film debuted on Netflix after beginning production exactly a year earlier. After the first four months of shooting, everything came to a halt in mid March. Luckily, the cast and crew were able to work with a team of epidemiologists to make sure they could start filming again as safely as possible, and they were able to finish shooting the movie in just enough time to make their original release date.
While the Broadway version starred celebrated Broadway veterans, big Hollywood names were brought in for the film. Directed by Ryan Murphy, the star-studded cast includes Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, and Andrew Rannells. Broadway actress Ariana DeBose plays Emma's high school girlfriend, Alyssa, but they cast a relative newcomer, Jo Ellen Pellman, to star as Emma. Though both young women are no longer in their teens, they do a fantastic job of authentically portraying their teenaged characters.
Murphy hand-picked Ariana and Jo Ellen specifically not only because of their talent, but because of their ability to represent and amplify other young queer voices. "They are both out and proud queer young women who saw The Prom on Broadway and were so moved by the LGBTQ love story told with joy and optimism," Murphy posted on his Instagram. "Jo Ellen and Ariana are the perfect ambassadors to tell this story, and I’m certain they will be role models and beacons of hope for so many kids all over the world who feel they are alone and don’t have communities of their own."
Ariana and Jo Ellen are so committed to helping young queer youth that they started The Unruly Hearts Initiative, brilliantly named after one of Jo Ellen's most notable songs in the film. In the initiative's Instagram bio, they say they are dedicated to "connecting young people with trusted organizations that advocate for the LGBTQ+ community." On their website, there is a tab to donate and one to seek help, with many resources to "address their wonderfully varied needs." Through fundraisers, raffles, auctions, and more, the two raise money for the amazing causes they support. As of January 8th, they raised $110,698, and they aren't stopping there.
You can find their website at www.unrulyheartsinitiative.com.
In 2019 when it was announced that The Prom would be coming to Netflix, no one knew what 2020 had in store. But this movie couldn't have come out at a better time in the world, a time when we're all so separated, because the film gives us the ability to feel connected. As both an escape from reality and a reminder of what we had and will get back to, The Prom thrills audiences, providing joy and hope in this time of darkness. With its catchy soundtrack and the captivating choreography, this “feel good” high school movie with a twist is a perfect choice for a family movie night, a Netflix Party with friends, or even to watch on your own! As the final words of the movie say, "It's time to dance!"