Prom Queen: The Musical
is a Very Palpable Hit
World premiere of a musical based on a true Canadian story
By Byron Toben
The Segal Centre has hit audience pay dirt with its world premiere of Prom Queen: The Musical. I would call it a hit… in fact, with deference to Osric, who judged the Hamlet-Laertes duel, a “very palpable hit”.
This bubbly musical is based on the 2002 cause celebre law suit in Oshawa, Ontario where 17 year old Marc Hall successfully sued the Durham County Catholic school board over the right to bring his then boyfriend to the school prom as his date. That episode was made into a documentary and then a TV film. Now, it has ‘arrived’ theatrically as a musical with potential to wind up in Toronto, San Francisco and New York.
Jointly produced by the Segal Centre and Mary Young Leckie, it features 18 performers playing 26 roles.
The 8-member band, headed by Mark Camilleri, adds to the oomph of Colleen Dauncey’s score, which matches the lyrics of Akiva Romer-Segal.
Caitlin Murphy’s interview with these two in the printed program describes the interplay of matching the words to the music and, more often, the music to the words. List, list, O List! in particular to It’s only a boy and two other songs about Infinity (the young Mr Hall wanted to be an astronomer).
The choreography, always a strong point at the Segal, captures the enthusiasm of the nubile student body, thanks to Sean Cheesman, who has worked with a ton of international stars.
… it (Prom Queen: The Musical) has ‘arrived’ theatrically as a musical with potential to wind up in Toronto, San Francisco and New York.
Director Marcia Kash reminds us that theatre, especially musical theatre, is a truly collaborative effort. And so it is.
Pleasure to see John C. Dinning, who has designed as many Segal sets as anyone, back after a four year hiatus. The multi purpose single set allows much room for the spirited dancing while serving as a creditable school, courtroom, residence and tavern. Read about the great technical help in the program
Key to a show like this is a sensitive yet dynamic Marc Hall himself. Alessandro Costantini fits the bill to a T. Jonathan Cullen as the initially reluctant ‘date’ and Sylvain Scott and Katee Julien as Marc’s supportive parents are fine, as is pretty blonde schoolmate Sydney Scotia for whose sake the ‘cool’ student heart throb Kolton Stewart, upturned collar swag and all, helps to enlist further student demos in favour of the law suit.
Great comic relief by chubby shy Zach Counsil and his short sidekick Jamie Mayers.
Gabi Epstein portrays a sympathetic funny teacher (she was the lead in the Segal’s recent Funny Girl) who confuses astronomy with astrology.
Stuart Dowling and Jonathan Whittaker provide balance as conservative adults… principal, priest, school lawyer and the like. David Silvestri is powerful as the pro bono lawyer who aids Marc. These three older actors also double as hardhat workers in tavern scenes.
At the finish of the press opening night, Segal artistic director Lisa Rubin introduced Mr Hall himself (he is now 32 years old and a Research Associate at the University of Calgary).
Some Trivia Hits
Shakespeare (many of whose plays incorporated gender confusion) penned ‘palpable hit’ in 1602. The line was used by Wayne and Shuster’s 1958 Shakespeare baseball skit and, to my knowledge, not since until my strained adaptation of the phrase for the title of this review. Clever readers will also have noticed that my List, List, O List! above was also from Hamlet, uttered by his father’s ghost.
Some really black humour. Although Marc suffered some death threats during the trial, in relatively peaceful Ontario, he would have suffered dastardly action in places like Wyoming, scene of The Laramie Project, a 1998 slaying made into a 2002 play later produced by Montréal’s Brave New Productions in 2012 and soon to be at the Monument National (December 12 to 17). To answer the 1947 song Why Oh Why Oh Did I Ever Leave Wyoming… that’s why.
Favourite Musical Hits
Colleen Dauncy: West Side Story, A Chorus Line
Akiva Romer-Segal: Into The Woods, Ragtime, Hairspray
Lisa Rubin: A Chorus Line, Les Miz, Rent
Me: Three Penny Opera, Les Miz, Cabaret, Showboat, South Pacific
Prom Queen: The Musical runs until November 20.
Information and tickets at 514 739-7944 or segalcentre.org
Images: Andrée Lanthier
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club