Netflix and Ryan Murphy are bringing the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit, The Prom to the streaming service on December 11, 2020.
I got a chance to sit down with the cast via Zoom as they talked about the movie and what it meant to them.
Perhaps the experience was most profound for star Jo Ellen Pellman who will make her feature film debut in The Prom.
“I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, so I have a strong connection to the Midwest,” she said, recalling her musical theater studies in college. “I saw this show on Broadway with my mom, and it is so personal to me because I’m queer, and I came out in high school also in the Midwest, and it’s a wild experience so being able to tell this story with this cast is quite literally my dream come true.”
The Prom follows Broadway stars Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep) and Barry Glickman (James Corden), whose latest show isn’t quite the blockbuster they expected.
To gain popularity with the public, the two actors decide, under the guise of noblesse oblige, to help a female high school couple banned from attending their Indiana high school prom together. The ruse, they hope, will boost their popularity with the public.
Directed by Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story, Ratched), the musical promises to be a film of memorable music and showstopping dance numbers.
Streep was called upon to answer the question about the choreography and if there were any mishaps.
The star laughed, “Well, I’m the oldest person in the cast, and I have the most dancing, which didn’t make sense to me. I thought, well, when I saw the show — which I had not seen before Ryan called and said, ‘Do you maybe wanna look at this project?’ I went to the theater and found out that it was closing and I couldn’t believe it was closing because it was absolutely packed. I honestly never heard a reaction like that in the theater; people were standing on their seats at the curtain call screaming and crying and laughing. But I noticed the leading lady didn’t do a lot of dancing, so I was very encouraged to say yes. Then all hell broke loose when I got to Los Angeles, and they laid out for me what it was. So, it was a lot of dancing. I got in shape; it was a lot of stamina, and man, it was hard work, but it was really, really fun!”
Keegan-Michael Key plays the supportive high school principal who wants the two girls to attend the prom but is shot down by conservative PTA parent Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington).
Key has a scene where he kisses Streep. “I was nervous with anticipation,” he laughs upon reflection. “We did most of our scenes together before that. We had a lot of time to get to know each other and spend time with each other and be comfortable with each other. It was exhilarating, and I was waiting for it the entire shoot. I had an entire tin of Altoids.”
Nicole Kidman plays Angie Dickenson a fellow Broadway star who joins Streep and Corden on their road trip. No stranger to energetic dance moves, as showcased in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!, Kidman says unlike some things she’s been in, there was a lot of rehearsal time for The Prom.
“We came in and we diligently just rehearsed and because I was doing Fosse, I came in thinking, yeah I can do this,” said the actress. “It was terrifying because the Fosse dancing is so specific, but I had this amazing group of dancers that trained me, and trained me with the patience of saints. I remember seeing Meryl doing her first number on the first week and just going: oh my god, this is so, so good!”
Ryan said in preparation for the shoot, he took over a large space at Paramount Pictures and created a sort of boot camp. “I think when you’re making a musical, it’s where the cast bonds. It was cool.”
James Corden (Cats) was asked if he ever had an embarrassing situation happen at his prom. After laughing and saying Brits don’t really have proms, he threw it over to Andrew Rannells who plays Trent Oliver. Rannells got the biggest laugh of the interview with his questionable story.
“I took an older woman to my prom,” said the out gay actor who went to an all-boys Catholic school. “She was twenty and the difference between seventeen and twenty at that age is pretty severe. She wore a black cocktail dress — not a prom dress — she was like a woman that I took to prom; I was over-compensating.”
The entire interview blew up with laughter at that point and someone joked that Andrew’s date might be in jail now and that he shouldn’t name names.
“She may have had a trashy-looking gown, but it made me very popular,” Andrew quipped amid the still-laughing cast.
One question presented to the actors was whether or not pop culture can bring about social change. If entertainment tackles hot-button issues, can it change minds?
“I think so,” said Washington. “There’s all this talk in our culture that we have to heal right now, and this friend of mine was saying, we all need to be sitting in meditation, getting in touch with that better part of ourselves. I said to her, ‘I think that for a lot of people where they sit in the dark and have transformative thoughts is in the movie theater or their living room watching TV.’ They are the stories that inform us of who we are as a society and a culture. We get to get in touch with our humanity — who we are, who we want to be, who we don’t want to be. I think it’s powerful.”
She adds, “When you fight for your own belonging you create belonging for other people. It’s such a beautiful, powerful story and I’m happy to be the bad guy, and try to get in the way, and be unsuccessful.”
Stream The Prom on Netflix December 11, 2020.