A Word In Edgewise: Take Me Out To The Prom!

Photo by Dan Norman
Photo by Dan Norman

The Prom. Silly, Funny, Corny: A delight. And Serious: Good intentions don’t always produce happy endings. Not all dreams have bang-up, full-bore dancing-happy endings. But The Prom is a musical comedy, and this is Chanhassen: Tonight they will.

It takes a sure hand to steer a craft unscathed between the turbulent straits of Glib and Grand Guignol; to hint of darker pasts while keeping faith in a brighter future. Steadfast, Artistic Director, Michael Brindisi, keeps a firm hand on the tiller straight through till journey’s end.

A musical that has been brought to bigger houses and wider screens with exponentially larger casts slips into the more intimate Chanhassen Dinner Theater stage as adroitly as that proverbial hand into a velvet glove. You’re never far from the action here, your eye and empathy juxtaposed with many vantage points; disparate sensitivities become understandable, if not palatable. Really; not many small towns would welcome a clutch of New Yawkers (of any stripe, never mind washed-up actors) descending on their town to set them straight (sic) and urge them to let young Emma Nolan bring her girlfriend as her prom date.

Who, like school principal Hawkins, long-time, star-struck fan of the lightly-faded, still- lush DeeDee Allen, would want to see up-close his idol’s unbridled ego, to realize he’s been taken in by her quartet’s self-serving agenda? A quickly struck romantic spark, quickly extinguished.

And Barry Glickman: just another overgrown, blustering gay “ME, ME!”, until he visits Emma, now rejected by her classmates and sheltering in her room. He breaches his façade enough to confess his own fears of Prom, that his pristine silver tux still languishes, along with his mom’s disapproval, in his childhood closeted closet.

Actress Angie Dickinson, overlooked as Chicago’s Roxie, also visits Emma. Goggling– as did many in the audience–at Angie’s “antelope legs,” Emma allows herself be drawn into Angie’s “Zazz” dance lesson in self-esteem.

Though the East Coast Crew tried its best, evil Mrs. Green (Alyssa’s mom) worked her wiles, lured Emma to the empty, decoy gym, as James Madison’s student body attended the real Prom at a private club. Emma confronts Alyssa; she knew nothing of her mother’s deception, but admits she hadn’t the courage to have confronted her, had she known. While detailing her mom’s controlling ways, Alyssa lets slip that Mom thinks if she’s perfect, maybe Dad will come back. Even the wicked are wounded.

Mrs. Greene’s ruse has depleted the school’s coffers; there’s no money to launch a second soirée. With almost nary a shudder, four Big Apple egos step up, credit cards extended, and it happens: Everyone–everyone–attends the final, Inclusive Prom: Barry in his glory and gleaming tux is crowned with a tiara. Mrs. Greene hugs and apologizes. Emma and Alyssa kiss. All’s right with the world. This world. This Chanhassen moment.

The Prom is an LGBTQ show in that it revolves around Emma and Alyssa’s dilemmas, but its range reaches beyond the couple: mother-child conflicts at any age, innate human loneliness, all who try to fill an inner void but find ego, anger, jealousy, fear, don’t erase the pain. For that, life requires forgiveness, reconciliation, Love.

Don’t create the void of missing The Prom. It will be at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre through June 10.

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