A Musical for Anyone With a Heartbeat

Photo courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres - Rich Ryan
Photo courtesy of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres - Rich Ryan

“The Prom” is taking the main stage at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres from February 10-June 10

Written by Chad Beguelin and Bob Martin, The Prom first opened in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2016, officially making its debut on Broadway in 2018. Since then, The Prom has been made into a movie by Ryan Murphy on Netflix and has received six Tony nominations. Now, it’s coming to the main stage of Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.

From February 10 through June 10, The Prom, directed by Michael Brindisi, will star Monty Hays as Emma Nolan and Maya Richardson as Alyssa Greene.

In The Prom, a group of Broadway stars visit a small town in Indiana to support Emma and Alyssa, whose school won’t let them go to prom together because they are both girls.

“This musical will resonate with you no matter who you are or how you identify, but this musical has the story and the music and the heart that can really connect with those who may not be out yet or are possibly out but not super proud of who they are due to circumstances that are out of their control,” Hays says. “Coming out is a bumpy ride, and I am so thankful for the influx of media that has been released over the last few years about young people’s coming out stories. The Prom is meant to make the audience feel like they belong.”

Hays and Richardson, who both identify as LGBTQ, agree that The Prom serves a critical role in showcasing the lives, joy, and experiences of young LGBTQ people.

“I love that The Prom is so silly and joy focused. More often than not, representation pieces tend to focus on the trauma of the LGBTQ+ experience, and this one puts a lot of emphasis on the joy of it all. It definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Prom might make you cry, but mostly because your heart is so warm,” Richardson says.

Hays adds: “If I had known what The Prom was when I was growing up thinking I was a cis girl lesbian, I would have felt significantly more secure and seen in the theater space. Throughout middle school, I stopped doing theater almost entirely because I had felt too ‘gay’ to play any young female role. It felt like there was a wall blocking me from relating and connecting to the other girls in casting calls and it would make me doubt myself and my identity, or ask myself why I couldn’t sing ‘Let Me Entertain You’ as convincingly as the rest of the group. Seeing a young, queer girl share her joyous yet terrifying and life-changing journey on a big stage would have done wonders for thirteen-year-old Monty.”

So far, Richardson says that their favorite part of performing in The Prom is seeing their friends’ glow while they perform. For Hays, it’s being able to work alongside fellow LGBTQ actors from different generations.

“What The Prom does so beautifully and almost effortlessly is seams together the big and unabashed Broadway world and the style of the traditional musical comedy with a story that’s a little more contained, both geographically and musically, which I think is so interesting and wonderful,” Hays says.

“I think a musical that showcases radical acceptance and joy in the face of violence is one of the greatest forms of rebellion,” Richardson adds. “Joy is something that will never be taken from marginalized communities. Joy is rebellious and radical, and so is The Prom!!!”

And the joy goes far beyond the characters themselves. “Here is a heartwarming fun fact – Tod Peterson (Barry) has known Monty Hays (Emma Nolan) since Monty was practically a baby,” Richardson says. “The electric connection you’ll see between them on stage is rooted in years of a beautiful friendship. How perfect is that?!”

Hays says that shows like The Prom could be life-changing for young LGBTQ viewers.

“Having a musical that discusses LGBTQ+ issues outside of blatant homophobia, such as LGBTQ+ homelessness and home instability and cherry-picking Bible verses is a huge step for not only the Broadway world but for mainstream media as well. Approximately 40 percent of the homeless youth population in America identifies with the LGBTQ+ and experience mental health struggles as well as self-harm, and I think if The Prom is accessible to the younger demographic, it could help them feel significantly less alone and most importantly, safe and protected,” they say.

Richardson concludes that The Prom is for “anyone with a heartbeat. But especially the kid sitting in the audience who stays awake at night wondering if they are enough. (They are).”

For more information and to purchase tickets to The Prom, visit https://chanhassendt.com/theprom/.

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