The Prom on Netflix: the musical's creators talk easter eggs, Meryl Streep's rap and what streaming offers
Get your party balloons and punch bowls ready – The Prom has arrived on Netflix! With that in mind, we hopped on Zoom to chat with the original musical's creators – Chad Beguelin (book and lyrics), Bob Martin (book) and Matthew Sklar (music) – about the process of taking their beloved Broadway show and putting it on a streaming platform, with American Horror Story's Ryan Murphy in the director's chair.
For the uninitiated, The Prom follows Emma, a young high-schooler who is prevented from going to her prom due to her sexual orientation. As a result, a group of Broadway thesps, looking for a PR tick, hitch a ride to Indiana to try and help Emma out of her discrimination-induced predicament.
The three writers were quick to appreciate just how much the show felt like it landed at the right moment. As Beguelin notes: "When we did our out-of-town (pre-Broadway run) in Atlanta, it was before Trump was elected so when we moved to New York after the election we had to completely rewrite the speech at the end of the play – to suit the tonal shift that had happened. But now, the film just seems to sit exactly at the right time. There is a sense that things may get better – it's a very aspirational film."
Martin also comments on how great it is to work with a streaming platform – the numbers involved are in a completely different league: "On the first day that it's streamed, more people will see the show than its entire Broadway run. The audience you can reach is so much broader. It's bittersweet to see an auditorium on the screen during a pandemic, but this makes things just a bit better."
And are there fun little easter eggs peppered through the film that eagle-eyed viewers should watch out for? Sklar notes a Longacre Theatre reference in one of the scenes, while Beguelin also says that the posters for fictional Broadway musical Eleanor (which makes an ill-fated appearance at the beginning of the film) were deliberately made to look like Hamilton branding. In a loving tribute to the show's director (and the film's choreographer) Casey Nicholaw, a photo of Nicholaw is hanging in the Sardi's (a famous Broadway eatery) set early on in the piece.
What is most telling is how the three writers feel closely intertwined with the entire process of taking the stage show to the big screen – as Sklar notes: "I was on set for two months – they couldn't keep me away, so I just forced my way on and they all let me stay. One thing I'll never forget is watching Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden and Kerry Washington all just rehearsing the finale dance in their break together. It was very surreal."
Beguelin also claims responsibility for the famous Merryl Streep rap in new number "Wear Your Crown", which plays over the title credits (Sklar says the tune just lets you bask in a great party): "I wrote the rap as a joke and sent it out they then said 'oh yeah, Meryl's doing it."
The rest is musical film history.