The world has finally seen “The Prom,” Ryan Murphy’s star-studded Netflix musical led by Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells, and newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman. Select audiences, industry, and press were treated to the world premiere of the film on Netflix on Sunday, and a wide range of first reactions from the screening are emerging. See below.
“The Prom” is the film version of Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin and Matthew Sklar’s award-winning, Tony-nominated Broadway musical. “The reason that [the musical] spoke to me is I wished when I was young I had a film like this to see,” Murphy said in a Q& after the film. “I wished that when I was growing up, I did not feel so alone in my life. Like Jo Ellen’s character, I am also from Indiana. It was a very similar feeling where I was searching for a community and a place to belong, and I just love that the musical was actually about something. It was about the fight to be seen, and be included in the conversation.”
In the film, has-been Broadway star Dee Dee (Meryl Streep), a two-time Tony Award winner, pairs up with Barry Glickman (Corden) in a musical about Eleanor Roosevelt. With career-killing reviews, it closes on opening night, so the two decide to revive their reputations by throwing their weight behind a charity cause. They’re joined by veteran Broadway chorus girl Angie Dickinson (Kidman), along with out-of-luck actor Trent Oliver (Rannells), in saving the day for Emma Nolan (Pellman), a high-school senior barred from bringing her girlfriend Alyssa (Ariana DeBose) to the big dance.
As for Meryl Streep’s unique casting as showboat Dee Dee Allen, Meryl joked, “It was such a stretch playing someone so vain and overrated, a big fat narcissist! I don’t know where I pulled it from,” while adding that she, personally, is “not a diva.”
Nicole Kidman gets to do some jazzy Fosse dancing in the film, a first for the actress who’s appeared in musicals like “Moulin Rouge!” and ‘Nine” before. “Ryan organized for me to be surrounded by these Broadway dancers who, that’s what they do,” she said. “I started and thought, ‘I’m never going to be able to climb this mountain’… but suddenly being educated in that, and having this team of people cheerlead me and make me believe I could do it, was just wonderful.”
Washington plays uptight PTA head (and Alyssa’s mom) Mrs. Greene in the film, bringing the character more depth than seen in the stage version, and in a spectacular show-stopping final number. She said she “wormed my way into the dance number at the end. At some point when we were filming, because I grew up in musical theater… I was like, Ryan, don’t you think Mrs. Greene should be in the finale?”
The cast was unanimous in giving a shout-out to Netflix for taking the movie from stage to screen, especially amid a dark hour for Broadway. “So many people can just click on and watch this, and hopefully the message of unconditional love and joy will be felt through the screen,” Kidman said of what is ultimately a love letter to tolerance.
“I hope that when people turn off the show they say, ‘Let’s go back and watch it again.’ Because that’s something you just can’t do with a play,” Streep said.
The movie arrives on Netflix globally and in select theaters on December 11. Sunday’s screening was presented with The Actors Fund, Broadway Cares, and the American Film Institute.
Was surprised by how much I loved the Broadway musical The Prom; so was Ryan Murphy, who made a quick round of calls to the stars he wanted to work with and landed Meryl Streep & Nicole Kidman, who shine in this entertaining, escapist @netflix diversion. Multiple Globes for sure!
— Anne Thompson (@akstanwyck) November 29, 2020
y’all…. #TheProm …. is so good. the ever-poignant burst of joy we needed in this dumpster fire of a year. plus @ArianaDeBose being an absolute star; i am so proud to call her my sister. 🤍 12/11 on netflix! don’t miss it!
— rachel zegler (@rachelzegler) November 29, 2020
#TheProm: Maybe it works better on-stage?
As is plays like a VERY LONG Glee episode. Jo Ellen Pellman is good but can’t say much about her because all the kids are in service to the A-listers who are so annoying.
— Kristen Lopez (@Journeys_Film) November 29, 2020
Every element of Ryan Murphy’s THE PROM is so inflated & exaggerated. All of the dialogue feels like an emotionally manipulative wink at the camera. Disguised as an exuberant joy, it desperately wants you to love it but its inconsistent tone, performances & pacing held me back. pic.twitter.com/3R0p1g2Bec
— Matt Neglia (@NextBestPicture) November 29, 2020
‘The Prom’ is just pure joy. A welcoming entry into a year that has seen its fair share of tragedy, it’s great to see a film exude so much positivity. The cast is collectively outstanding and standouts are Jo Ellen Pellman, Ariana DeBose and Keegan-Michael Key. Loved it. #TheProm pic.twitter.com/5k4xmAE2A2
— Clayton Davis (@AwardsCircuit) November 29, 2020
Meryl Streep singing “It’s not About me” is the greatest gift she has given us since “The Winner Takes it All.” Y’all aren’t ready for this triumphant performance. @promnetflix #theProm pic.twitter.com/Q56JYapw4U
— Jazz Tangcay (@jazzt) November 29, 2020
Really liked #TheProm. A gorgeous and vibrant production. Streep is hilarious and commanding. Keegan-Michael Key is dreamy. Kidman, Rannells and Washington are fun. Ariana DeBose is winsome. But it’s Jo Ellen Pellman who has my heart in a wonderful, star-making turn.
— Erik Anderson (@awards_watch) November 29, 2020
The Prom is the best stage to screen musical adaptation in years. A feel great musical extravaganza that is exactly what the world needs in 2020. Wholly entertaining, hilarious, touching, & very relevant. #TheProm is brilliantly cast with terrific performances across the board. pic.twitter.com/ZCaX2PaoiR
— Scott Menzel (@ScottDMenzel) November 29, 2020
I think if you like musicals you will like The Prom. If you don’t like musicals it will be a struggle. The two young female leads attending the prom are great.
— Sasha Stone (@AwardsDaily) November 29, 2020
I liked The Prom! I am pretty sure not everyone will feel the same way, but I thought it was a fairly straightforward adaptation of a musical I also liked. While it lacks a bit of the show’s bite, it remains cute and often quite funny, and obviously I cried, but also I’m easy.
— Louis “All Is Calm, All Is Bright”-zman (@LouisPeitzman) November 29, 2020
Nicole Kidman has a lot of fun in THE PROM and that was great to watch. Probably wouldn’t watch it again, but I enjoyed her solo number. pic.twitter.com/GiFl6qZGUt
— Carlos Aguilar (@Carlos_Film) November 29, 2020
There’s something heartbreaking about watching #TheProm, a musical about the affirmative power of theatre, at precisely the time when we’re being denied it. But wonderful to see actors, all of whose careers were forged on the stage & whom I’ve seen in the theatre, celebrating it. pic.twitter.com/vChuQeO6hz
— Mark Shenton (@ShentonStage) November 29, 2020