Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Prom
National Tour
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations

The Cast
Photo by Deen van Meer
The touring production of The Prom, playing in the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater in Washington through January 16, sparkles as it balances broad, campy humor with a sweet message about accepting people as they are.

The 2018 musical, with a book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, music by Matthew Sklar, and lyrics by Beguelin, follows a group of self-absorbed Broadway actors who—in a bid to prove that they aren't narcissists—arrive uninvited in a small Midwestern town to support Emma (Kaden Kearney), a lesbian senior at a high school that has canceled the prom rather than let her bring a female date. Yes, lessons are learned and hearts are warmed, but not in a preachy way, always with a sense of being in on the joke.

Director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw capably depicts the two sides of the production. The full-cast dance numbers—at a Sardi's opening-night party, in a convenience store parking lot, and of course at a promo—bubble, well supported by lighting designer Natasha Katz's imaginative use of color, but the small moments for one or two performers land just as strongly.

Kearney, who uses they/them pronouns, is a real find as Emma. Their performance is radiant, ranging from the giddy joy of unexpected love, through crushing despair and justified anger, to navigating her place in a sometimes difficult world, all with a quietly moving singing voice.

On the flashier side, Courtney Balan dazzles as Dee Dee Allen (a role she understudied on Broadway), a two-time Tony Award-winning actress who believes fame and talent give her permission to hijack Emma's situation to improve her personal brand. At her level are Patrick Wetzel as Dee Dee's sometime co-star Barry Glickman, gay, Jewish, and proud of it; Bud Weber as Trent Oliver, who graduated from Juilliard but is best known for starring in a decades-old television sitcom; and Emily Borromeo as Angie, a longtime (and long-legged) chorus dancer with a thing for Bob Fosse moves.

Scott Pask's scenic design is serviceable rather than showy, but the costumes designed by Ann Roth and Matthew Pachtman pick up the slack.

The Prom runs through January 16, 2022, in the Eisenhower Theater at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC. For tickets and information, please call 800-444-1324 or 202-467-4600 or visit For more information on the tour, visit

Book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin
Music by Matthew Sklar
Lyrics by Chad Beguelin

Olivia Keating: Ashley Bruce
Dee Dee Allen: Courtney Balan
Second Reporter: James Caleb Grace
Sheldon Saperstein: Shavey Brown
Barry Glickman: Patrick Wetzel
Angie: Emily Borromeo
Trent Oliver: Bud Weber
Emma: Kaden Kearney
Mrs. Greene: Shanti J'Aria
Mr. Hawkins: Sinclair Mitchell
Kaylee: Olivia Cece
Shelby: Brittany Nicole Williams
Alyssa: Kalyn West
Nick: James Caleb Grice
Kevin: Jordan Alexander
Motel Clerk: Thad Turner Wilson
Ensemble: Jordan Alexander, Gabrielle Beckford, Ashley Bruce, Olivia Cece, Maurice Dawkins, James Caleb Grace, Megan Grosso, Marie Gutierrez, Chloe Rae Kehm, Braden Allen King, Brandon J. Large, Christopher McCrewell, Adriana Negron, Brittany Nicole Williams, Thad Turner Wilson, Josh Zacher

Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw
Music Supervisor: Mary-Mitchell Campbell