I love musical theatre more than I can say, so the announcement of another film adaptation of a stage musical excited me. However, I unfortunately don’t have entirely positive things to say about Netflix’s The Prom.
Let’s start with one of the positives: the music. ‘It’s Not About Me’ performed by Streep provides the perfect sense of irony given it most definitely is, undeniably, all about her, and the witty lyrics of ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ sang by Andrew Rannells makes this song another personal favourite.
As I have somewhat touched upon, the other positive is some of the casting (emphasis placed on “some”). Beyond Streep and Rannells, who are perfect, it was great to watch Ariana DeBose in a bigger role after watching her in Hamilton earlier this year, and Jo Ellen Pellman was astonishing in her film debut, with what I would argue is the best singing voice in the cast.
Now, let’s talk about James Corden. This casting is part of a larger problem in musical films that I will touch upon next, but Corden’s portrayal of a gay man was quite offensive. As a straight man, Corden’s acting was clearly built on the stereotypes surrounding gay men in the theatre industry of campness, boisterousness and femininity. Of course, some men adopt these stereotypes but some do not, and the role should have been portrayed by a LGBTQ+ man to avoid any offense or inaccurate stereotyping.
There is a larger problem in the film industry when it comes to casting, where musical theatre and Broadway performers with a lower profile than the A-List actors hired are being overlooked for roles that realistically suit them better than bigger names. Corden, I believe, provides a shining example of the problem in The Prom. The likes of Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia, Russell Crowe in Les Miserables and many more demonstrate that singing ability and performance quality is often sacrificed in favour of a more notable name being on the cast list. Corden, although a talented performer, was not right for this role, and I hope the backlash serves as an example that influences future casting in these films.
In short, there are some redeeming qualities amongst a lot of bad parts, so in my mind, my recommendation to watch entirely depends on why you want to watch. If you’re a die-hard musical theatre fan like myself or are interested in the music, go ahead. If not, then I wouldn’t recommend.