Get Your Corsages and Boutonnieres Ready for the Upper School Musical: “The Prom”

Don’t forget your corsage! Meet us in the new Poly Arts Center’s Richard Perry Theatre on March 8-9 at 7:00 PM and March 10 at 2:00 PM, and make old memories anew with our stirring, right-of-passage production of The Prom.

“We’ve had The Prom on our shortlist ever since the licensing became available for school productions,” said Head of Arts Michael S. Robinson. “I’m so thrilled that Mariko Watt and the production team are bringing this dynamic, community-focused musical to Poly.”

Watt echoed that sentiment saying, “In choosing The Prom as this year’s musical, we have chosen to shine a spotlight on the challenges that students, particularly those in the LGBTQ+ community, face on a daily basis.”

The 2019 Broadway musical, The Prom, received seven Tony nominations, won a Drama desk Award for Best Musical and was adapted into a Netflix special in 2020 by American Horror Story and Glee creator Ryan Murphy, who found the show to be “one of the most uplifting, heartfelt and special musicals” he had ever seen. The special went on to receive a nomination for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. The Prom follows four fading Broadway stars who are in desperate need of a new stage. In hopes that the heated controversy will give their careers some shine, they make their way to a small town in Indiana where a high school senior and her girlfriend are banned from attending her school’s prom. 

If you’ve seen the remake of The Color Purple, Mean Girls, or Wonka, The Prom fits perfectly into the current popularity of movie musicals. Beyond the big song and dance numbers, the lines that deliver on humor, wit, or pathos, the coordinated stage direction, bright lights and gorgeous sets, audience members will find that The Prom’s ’s message resonates far beyond the stage. Discriminatory school policies across the country continue to impact students and the collective response from celebrities helped push this particular story into the national spotlight.

According to TIME magazine, The Prom is not based on a single true story, but a series of events that exposed discrimination at schoolwide socials, like proms. One of these events occurred in 2010 at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi, when the school refused to let then high school student Constance McMillen and her girlfriend attend the prom as a couple. McMillen was also told she could not wear a tuxedo to the event—and that only male students were permitted to do so. When McMillen resisted the schools’ policy and got in contact with the ACLU, the school responded by canceling the prom altogether. Parents in the community then organized a separate prom event, intentionally excluding McMillen and her girlfriend.

“Today’s students navigate a landscape where issues of acceptance, identity, and equality are at the forefront of their experiences. According to the ACLU, there are currently 437 anti-LGBT bills that aim to block the community in some way from basic needs or the right to publicly exist…”

Mariko Watt

The news drew nationwide focus as celebrities such as Lance Bass, along with members of Green Day and others, united to organize an inclusive prom dance for McMillen and other unnamed LGBTQ+ and marginalized students. The message in The Prom and the majority of responses to McMillen’s case is straightforward: let students be themselves in school without retribution, and don’t just allow it, welcome it. And so, it is with that welcoming  spirit, that Poly’s curtains will lift in March.

Robinson affirms the importance of LGTBQ+ representation on the stage while acknowledging the challenges of selecting age-appropriate, large cast shows. “Poly produces five mainstage full productions a year on the Dyker Heights campus, and over the last six years, The Prom, will be only the third show to feature LGBTQ+ characters, following last year’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee musical and The Laramie Project, the Grades 11 and 12 production in 2019. We strive to have our shows represent a diverse range of stories and experiences, and we consider how to support greater inclusivity in the playwrights whose work we bring to the Poly community as well.” 

Mariko shared her appreciation for students in the production, acknowledging “all the work that the cast, crew, my co-workers, and especially my Assistant Director Sadie Schoenberger ’25 have put into this show. The hours that Sadie has put into helping block, organize, communicate to the cast, and note take during rehearsals have been plentiful. Everyone needs a Sadie in their life. I’d also like to thank and congratulate the seniors in this production for the hard work and leadership that they have put into this show and all their past shows at Poly: Zeke Wise ’24, Lulu McDonald ’24, Jasmine Donald ’24, Tristan Kelley ’24, Genevieve Fitzpatrick ’24, and MaKiyah Turner-Hicks ’24.”

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2023-24 Upper School Musical: The Prom

Families are asked to register to attend our Upper School Musical, The Prom, on March 8-9 at 7:00 PM and March 10 at 2:00 PM in the new Poly Arts Center’s Richard Perry Theatre.

Tickets are $10 for students/children over 5 and $15 for adults.