Way To Go

Stars: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Jo Ellen Pellman, Kevin Chambelin, Keegan-Michael Key, Kerry Washington, Mary Kay Place, Andrew Rannells and Ariana DeBose
Director: Ryan Murphy
Scriptwriters: Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin based on “The Prom” by Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin and Matthew Sklar
Composer: Matthew Sklar and David Klotz
Cinematography: Matthew Libatique
Ryan Murphy Productions/Netflix
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 132 Minutes 

“Prom” is one of two rousing musicals to end 2020 and begin 2021.  Both musicals deal with issues of their time. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is set in the 1920’s. There is distance within the musician’s group between blues and jazz, plus low pay for black musicians. Viola Davis and the late Chadwick Boseman star.  In “Prom”, it is present day and the music is vibrant and energetic, plus the social situation concerns being a teenager, being gay, and when to come out. Meryl Streep and James Corden (yes, James Corden,), plus Nicole Kidman, are the stars in a contemporary film about putting on a teen prom with snappy lyrics and a contemporary storyline. “Prom” is adapted from an earlier Broadway show. “The Prom,” by Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin and Matthew Sklar. The theme is prom time, but a prom with, perhaps, some couples being of the opposite sex, not the same sex. You can see the problems that will come and what is done to resolve and put on a Prom.  Newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman, as the teenage with a situation on her hands in Edgewater, Indiana.  Your feet may be tapping already. 

The story begins with planning a prom and the announcement that teenager Emma (Pellman) wants to attend the prom, but with her girlfriend. The answers are a resounding “no,” and this makes news headlines. In New York City, Dee Dee (Streep), Barry (Corden) and Angie (Kidman) don’t have jobs because of the closing of their play about Eleanor Roosevelt. They read about Emma and decide to travel to Edgewater to help out.  This they do mightily and manage to put things in disarray until level heads prevail. Emma’s mother (Kerry Washington) still keeps staying “no.”  This being a musical, all turns out OK and with good music, dance scenes and stars whose names you don’t see often now (Tracey Ullman and Mary Kay Place). Did you know that James Corden could dance?  Did you know Meryl Streep (well, yes, you did) could belt out a song, but did you know that Nicole Kidman could drape herself around a chair and sing a song? Oh, yes, all is a pleasant surprise. Watch for the song, “Wear Your Crown.” This play has a heart and is reminiscent of the early days in film with Mickey Rooney,  Judy Garland and “let’s put on a musical” and it happened. 

Director Ryan Murphy just lets his stars do their thing in this film, and if they said they couldn’t do it (sing or dance), well, they did it anyway.  The show must go on. From the humorous beginning where formerly major stars are facing a letdown in their careers to jumping in to help someone else and meeting a challenge, this is a fun show with snappy dialogue that comes a mile a minute. James Corden does steal his scenes, Meryl Streep’s theatrics are comical (remember her ("Florence Foster Jenkins" film), and Nicole Kidman comes forward at just the right time. A “Prom” is born, music by Matthew Sklar and David Klotz. Everyone seems to be having so much fun. 

The idea of not either having a prom, or not being able to attend a prom, because of one’s gender, is news today and well-taken up by this play-then movie. It is handled well and with a light touch which you wish could actually be in the real world This makes the theme comfortable to the audience. Having reviewed films this year concerning the Covid-19 virus, ghosts, deafness and other topics, it was refreshing to just listen to the music. Enjoy. 

Copyright 2021 Marie Asner