One of the more underrated musicals out of this year’s Tony lineup was The Prom. Written by The Drowsy Chaperone’s Bob Martin, and with music and lyrics by The Wedding Singer’s Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin, The Prom has been a critical and commercial success for Broadway since it premiered, thanks to a silly story, great performances, and resonant message. It should come as no surprise that the film would immediately inspire a cinematic adaptation, and considering its comedy-drama source material, it’s the perfect outing for Ryan Murphy as he begins his contract with Netflix. None of this information should come as a surprise to anyone who knows Netflix’s business model, Murphy’s M.O., or the way Hollywood/Broadway works. However, what should strike audiences as surprising is the enormously talented cast Murphy has managed to pull off for his little vanity project.
Perhaps the biggest “get” here is the casting of Meryl Streep in the role of Dee Dee Allen. Streep’s not the obvious choice for the role – while she has a lovely, melodic instrument, Mamma Mia and Into the Woods have proven that she is no belter, like Broadway’s Beth Leavel. That being said, it is still impressive casting, and a huge boon for both Netflix and Murphy. Meanwhile, Nicole Kidman is returning to the big screen musical in the role of chorus girl Angie Dickinson. This will reunite the duo for the first time since Big Little Lies (I could watch the two of them on that show for hours). James Corden has signed on to play the role of Barry Glickman, and while he’s an odd choice for a gay Jewish man, he certainly has the charisma and the talent to play the role. And the quartet of leads will be rounded out by Andrew Rannells as Trent Oliver, which is just smart casting (and obvious, as Rannells has a good relationship with Murphy). The lead of the story, Emma Nelson, will be cast after a nationwide search. Other major casting notices include Awkwafina as a gender-swapped Sheldon Saperstein, the publicist for the divas, and Keegan-Michael Key as the school principal (and Streep’s love interest) Mr. Hawkins. Ariana Grande was also originally announced for the role of Alyssa, the lead’s love interest, but tour dates may preclude her from taking the part. It is still up in the air.
The Prom tells the story of a young girl named Emma who is heartbroken to learn that she will not be allowed to take her girlfriend to the prom, thanks to her small Indiana town’s PTA. She writes an open letter on behalf of herself and her closeted girlfriend Alyssa, in the hopes of changing their minds. It doesn’t work, but it does catch the eye of failing Broadway stars Dee Dee Allen, Barry Glickman, Trent Oliver, and Angie Dickinson, who have decided that the only way to save their freefalling careers is to become Celebrity Activists, descending on the town with as much press as they can gather and all of their flamboyant know-how. As Broadway battles a small town stuck in its ways, two young girls get caught in the crossfire, just wanting to share a dance with the person they love. In the end everyone is happy and they dance and kiss, just like a Broadway musical should. Netflix is planning on giving the film a full Oscar season push, releasing the film on Netflix and in theaters October 2020. You can watch the show’s Tony performance below.