‘The Prom’ delivers heart, humor and a timely message wrapped in a classic musical comedy

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Palace Theatre Artistic Director Carl Rajotte discusses behind-the-scenes prep to advisory board members who got a sneak peek at “The Prom,” which runs March 1-24 at The Palace. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – When the curtain rises tonight on the musical comedy “The Prom” for its Palace Theatre debut, Artistic Director Carl Rajotte is hoping the message is as memorable as the music.

“It hit me like a wall after I learned that it’s based on true events,” Rajotte said during a recent preview of the show for the theatre’s advisory council.

“So in 2010 this happened in Mississippi, where a young lady wanted to bring her girlfriend to the prom and she wanted to wear a tuxedo. They ended up canceling the prom because of that. And, you know, we’re still facing these same issues here today,” Rajotte said.

Whenever art can imitate life in such a way that it makes us laugh, think and walk away with more understanding of the world we live in, it’s a win, Rajotte says.

As per the playbill, the show centers around four eccentric Broadway stars who’ve bombed and need some redemption. In desperate need of a new stage, when they hear that trouble is brewing around a small-town prom, they know that it’s time to put a spotlight on the issue  – and themselves. The town’s parents want to keep the high school dance on the straight and narrow—but when one student just wants to bring her girlfriend to prom, the entire town has a date with destiny. On a mission to transform lives, Broadway’s brassiest join forces with a courageous girl and the town’s citizens and the result is love, that brings them all together.

Rajotte points out that the subplot around the four “diva” Broadway performers, who set out to do the right thing for the wrong reason, also adds a layer of redemption to the mix – although not everyone comes out of the story with a heightened sense of understanding about human nature.

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Palace Artistic Director Carl Rajotte, standing left, watches a scene during a recent tech rehearsal for “The Prom,” which runs March 1-24 at The Palace.

“These Broadways actors come to town to put a mirror on everybody else, to show them how they’re acting, and in that process, the same thing happens for them as well because, while they’re there they get to turn a mirror on themselves and realize they’re narcissists, and they need to do things for the right reason, not for just popularity and trending,” Rajotte says.  “And shouldn’t we all? If everyone could just step into someone else’s shoes before they judge what they’re going through, you know, it would change the world.”

And that is part of the magic of the theatre – it allows art to shine a light on society in such a way that we can inject humor and self-reflection as a way of changing hearts and minds, he says.

“We’re still fighting a lot of hatred and discrimination when it comes to our human differences, and I don’t know when it stops, but I’m happy that art is still being created to get us there,” Rajotte says. ” Art kind of tricks you into laughing and having a good time and then it also hits you, that there’s a message that needs to be heard.”

And just as in real life, there are characters in the show who represent the point of view of those who are against same-sex relationships, notes Rajotte.

“There’s one character that is the ring leader of that point of view, and the actor portraying that character came to me and said,’I just feel sad that my character does not get any redemption,’ and I said we have to be careful because yes, this is musical theater but in real life, changes don’t happen overnight and we need to show that sometimes it takes time, and that’s okay; we can be patient.”

The play itself originated on stage and was adapted to film, released to Netflix during COVID in 2020, which is why some might have missed it. The film cast includes Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman and Ariana DeBose, says Rajotte.

Interest in this particular production from the professional acting community was intense, says Rajotte, who is still putting out casting calls as they did during the pandemic, which means actors from across the country – not just New York City – are in the mix.

“We had more than 1,400 actors submit audition tapes for this show, and from there we do callbacks and eventually we narrowed it down to 21 wonderful professional actors and about nine teenagers from our Palace teen company, which is an incredible opportunity for them to learn and grow,” Rajotte says.


If you go

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“The Prom” runs March 1-24 at The Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., in Manchester. There are 17 performances. Tickets range from $28 to $49. Use the “ticket” link above or click here to find the best seat in the house.


 

About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of ManchesterInkLink.com. Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!