Having raved about other college productions over the last few months, I was thrilled to end the academic year with a trip to The Prom at Weber State. With a book by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, lyrics by Chad Beguelin, and music by Matthew Sklar, The Prom made its Broadway debut in 2018. Directed here at Weber State by Andrew Barratt Lewis, the story follows Emma, played by Charlie Graham, a teen who wants to attend her Prom with her secret girlfriend, Alyssa, played by Grace Zito, who is completely in the closet and whose mother, played by Aisha Garcia, is head of the PTA and against the idea of a LGBTQA friendly prom. When some big Broadway stars down on their luck find out about the situation, they come in to save the day and seem to cause more chaos than assistance.

Having been made into a Netflix movie, the Prom is not an unfamiliar show, but it is still a subject matter that while set in Indiana, feels like it could be set in Utah and because of such one wonders how will Utah audiences take to it. One of the first lines that Principal Hawkes, played by Christian Redmond, says is “It can be hard to believe that things like this still happen.” Yet one look at the current political landscape, and it becomes less hard to believe. The cast and crew of the show at Weber have taken what is at its core a lighthearted story of two kids wanting to go to prom, and shown just how deep and complicated the subject matter is.

As for production value, the first thing to commend here is the costume design by Fan Zhang and Citali Urquiza. While it seems like doing modern day costuming would perhaps be easier than period costuming, but it has been my experience that it can be the opposite. Trying to make sure that there is uniformity, themes, and accuracy can get lazy, but Zhang and Urquiza have found interesting ways to weave themes within their costuming. One of my favorites was the color theme that connected Alyssa and Emma, having them having a thread that seemed to connect each costume change. Additionally, the costumes for the character Dee Dee Allen, played most wonderfully by Aspen Bakner, were stunning. Allen is meant to be a larger than life diva, and I truly appreciated that her costumes matched her larger than life persona, from the perfect purple number in the opening act, to the variety of pants suits that she had in each scene. I also appreciated that she seemed to have more costume changes than everyone else, because of course she would.

When a show is about a prom, you expect good choreography, and Francesca Mintowt-Czyz and Alicia Trump did not disappoint. The interesting thing about this production is the variety of dancing. From the dancing you expect to see at a prom that is showcased in the song Tonight Belongs to You and It’s Time To Dance, to the Fosse number Zazz, to the ensemble number Love thy Neighbor Mintow-Czyz and Trump showed that the are quite able to take a sizable cast and utilize that energy well. Additionally, the lighting design by Jessica Greenberg and Jaron Shereda was top notch, showcased especially during the song Unruly Heart, which first had Graham as Emma stealing the audience’s heart, but then encompassed the rest of the cast in individual spotlights in a perfect fashion to remind us the theme of the show, that people just want to belong as they are. This theme is further amplified by choreography, costume, and fantastic ensemble in the final number It’s Time To Dance as the inclusive prom showcases people wearing styles they truly want to wear, dancing in ways they want to dance, and lit up in colors that match that ambiance.

It really comes as no surprise that a college production, full of people who are majoring in performing, will come off flawlessly. What is impressive is that Weber is not afraid to take on a story, simple on the surface, but complex, timely, and important. Just as some of the characters in The Prom, some audience members will be uncomfortable with the subject matter. The level of acting that Graham was able to embrace as Emma, showing that she was not out for any agenda, she was just simply wanting to dance with the person that she liked, was palpable and believable. This acting was met by every single character and it is impossible to single each of them out, but they all are worthy of praise. The attention from those around her was not welcomed or wanted, but was embraced because of the message she was sharing. Theatre education programs are meant not only to educate the students, but also the community, and for that I give The Prom an A+.

The Prom plays April 5-6 at 7:30pm with a matinee at 2pm on April 6 at the Austed Theater at the Val A. Browning Center on Weber State Campus, 3950 W Campus Dr., Ogden, Utah, 84408. Tickets are $12-17. For more information see https://www.weber.edu/theatre/theatre-season.html