Amanda Lourenço in The Prom
Photo: Emily Cooper

Theatre Under the Stars
The Prom

When & Where alternating nights between July 11 to August 25, 2023 All shows at 8pm, except on Fireworks Nights (July 22, 26 & 29) when shows begin at 7pm | Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park

Director/Choreographer Tracey Power Assistant. Director Paige Fraser Music Director Sean Bayntun Production Manager Richard Berg Technical Director Matthew Oviatt Set Designer Brian Ball Costume Designer Stephanie Kong Lighting Designer Robert Sondergaard Sound Designer Michael Kidder Props Stephanie Barclay Intimacy Director Karyn Mott Dance Captain Ava Maddison Stage Manager Emma Hammond
Musicians Sean Bayntun, Barb Choi, Livia Cohen, Iain Waddell, Michelle Xu, David Zhen, Christian Richardson, Monica Sumulong-Dumas, Colin Parker, Nick Apivor, Lawrence Woodall, Julie Holden, Andrew Radke, Justin Kury & Elijah Morrison

Reviewer Christian Steckler

In a time of culture wars in America, and increasingly in Canada, a production such as The Prom is a broadside on those who ironically want to forbid people being who they are by citing freedom of speech and expression. They say that no one has the right to tell others how to live, and then act and legislate to do just that - tell others how to live.

Tracey Power has done wonders with her direction in this production. It dazzles on a full and boisterous stage of colourful characters, high energy, and thought-provoking ideas and action. Caitriona Murphy captivates as Dee Dee Allen, a seasoned performer whose star is fading, but whose ego is not. Her presence, especially early in the show, dominates the stage, in keeping with her pushiness and entitlement, but subtly levels out with Murphy’s talent, as she learns to think of others instead of only herself. Greg Armstrong-Morris is a delightfully over-the-top Barry Glickman, facing a failing end to a long career in show business, but ever optimistic, ever hopeful and ever so gay. Armstrong-Morris builds Barry’s energy and positivity beautifully to match the obstacles that come along throughout the play.

Amanda Lourenco as Angie Dickenson sparkles. Her singing, and especially her dancing talent stand out whether with few on stage, or the whole cast. Matthew Valinho’s Trent Oliver is a real charmer. Believing in himself because he went to Juilliard, he lets none of his dead-end shots at fame get him down. His good looks and his way with words always bring opportunities, and pay off as the plot develops. Valinho aces the role. Rounding out the show-biz group is Jessica Wong’s Sheldon, patient, hard-working, and gotta-be-tough to work with all these quirky characters. Wong handles the role admirably. Amy Gartner’s powerful Mrs. Greene, is a tremendous antagonist, showing self-righteous bigotry with just the right measure of fire, determination and close mindedness. Kevin Khonje’s Tom Hawkins, the school principal, and foil to all the outrageous characters he finds surrounding him, is absolutely convincing - humble, compassionate and resolute in his duty and his honour.

The central characters of the play are Emma Nolan and Alyssa Greene, two graduating girls who are in love. Alyssa, sublimely played by Brianna Clark, has the misfortune of being the daughter of the bigoted Mrs. Greene. Hers is a tightrope walk in life, overwhelmed by the conflict between her love for Emma and her fear of rejection by her mother and her school friends. Clark is wonderful in the role, and her singing voice is as noteworthy as her acting talent, perfectly matching Emma’s.

The star of this performance, in this reviewer’s opinion, is Anna Pontin, whose character, Emma Nolan, is the focus of the production. Pontin is superb in her role. Her singing voice is clear and angelic. Her tone, expressions, body language - all of it - are so naturally in the age, personality and circumstances of the character that it seems that there is no acting going on at all. For this reviewer, there can be no higher praise.

The ensemble is great, down to each performer. They bring the background to life for every scene, and their singing and dancing shine. The energy they exhibit skillfully carries the mood of the play throughout. This reviewer was especially struck by this with the performance ending the first act, the song “Tonight Belongs to You”. When they finished, there was a momentary hush before polite applause from the audience as the performers had just convinced us that they were totally supportive of the bigoted, selfish “solution” to the problem of the prom.

The orchestra was outstanding throughout, a hallmark of TUTS performances. The sound engineering was perfectly balanced for the music, the players, and the singers, as was the lighting. Sets were imaginative and effective, and changed easily and unobtrusively. Costumes were appropriately stunning.

Theatre Under The Stars never fails to delight. The standards are high, creating ever higher expectations year after year. This production of The Prom checks all the boxes.

© 2023 Christian Steckler