Netflix’s new movie musical The Prom has marketed itself as ‘that one show with basically every celebrity in it.’ Clearly that’s not quite the case—there are zero hunks from The Avengers or Star Wars tap-dancing on stage, I’m sorry to say—but the tongue-in-cheek advertisement isn’t wrong either. The Prom is absolutely loaded with celebrities, chief among them the One Actress To Rule Them All, Meryl Streep. So what sort of story drew this caliber of talent?
Well, The Prom is a Ryan Murphy production, for one. Murphy is the mastermind behind such successes as American Horror Story, American Crime Story, Glee, Ratched, and Pose, making him a sought-after director to work with. But The Prom was also a successful Broadway musical long before Streep stepped into the glittering shoes of Dee Dee Allen. The story follows a troupe of Broadway actors who, after a catastrophic review tanks one of their productions, decide to indulge in a little reputation-building activism. They take on the case of Emma Nolan, whose small Indiana town has decided she can’t go to prom with her girlfriend. Sure, perhaps The Prom paints Middle America with a bit of a broad, homophobic brush, but it also depicts a reality all too familiar for so many young queer people, and the zany journey Emma and co. embark on is charming, funny, and meaningful in equal measure.
So to get you prepped for a night at the prom, here’s a quick primer on your ensemble of hosts for the evening.
Streep plays Dee Dee Allen, the stereotypical self-obsessed Broadway star whose limelight has started to fizzle. She’s beloved in New York for her Patti LuPone-like talents, but in the rest of the country she’s a relative unknown. That doesn’t sit well with her, so she vows to take Indiana—and Emma’s little high school—by storm.
Where you’ve seen her: Oh, just a few places. We could start with the more recent Big Little Lies appearance, or switch gears to her musical days with Mama Mia! and Into The Woods. She won Oscars for The Iron Lady, Sophie’s Choice, and Kramer vs. Kramer, and perhaps one of her most iconic performances was in The Devil Wears Prada. She’s generally considered the best living actress out there. So, yeah, she kills it as Dee Dee.
Kidman is Fosse girl Angie Dickinson, who’s been stuck as an understudy for the lead role in Chicago since…well, forever. But she’s still got a lot of pizzazz to dole out, starting, of course, with Emma.
Where you’ve seen her: Moulin Rouge! is perhaps her most memorable singing performance, but you’ve also seen her in Big Little Lies, The Undoing, The Hours, Practical Magic, and dozens of other movies.
Corden is the inimitable Barry Glickman, who rules the stage alongside Dee Dee and has a Drama Desk award to show for it—but, uh, not a Tony. He feels deeply for Emma’s plight, considering he ran away from home after coming out to his own parents as a child.
Where you’ve seen him: Most likely his talk show, The Late Late Show With James Corden, and its many YouTube sensations, including “Carpool Karaoke.” He was also in Into The Woods alongside Streep. Oh, and Cats, but we needn’t talk about that.
Rannells stars as Trent Oliver, a young actor who can’t shake his sitcom appearance as he tries to make it big on Broadway. He loves name-dropping his Juilliard credentials and making homophobes realize the error of their ways.
Where you’ve seen him: Rannells is a certified Broadway star, having performed in The Book of Mormon, Falsettos, Hamilton, Hairspray, Jersey Boys, Hedwig and The Angry Inch, and The Boys In The Band. As far as movies go, you might recognize him from the film version of The Boys In The Band or from A Simple Favor and The Intern. He’s also a talented voice actor, bringing his chops to cartoons like Big Mouth, Bob’s Burgers, Pokémon, and Sonic X.
Washington is Mrs. Greene, the conservative mother of Alyssa Greene, Emma’s girlfriend. She believes LGBTQ couples should not be allowed to attend prom, and she’s intent on bending the PTA to her wishes.
Where you’ve seen her: As the incomparable Olivia Pope in Scandal, but also in Little Fires Everywhere, Django Unchained, and Ray.
Michael-Key is the unbearably adorable high school principal and Broadway fan Tom Hawkins. He’s been traveling to New York to watch Dee Dee Allen perform for as long as he can remember, so when she lands at his little high school, his heart can’t contain itself. He also joins the fight to allow Emma and Alyssa to attend prom.
Where you’ve seen him: Michael-Key first drew attention for his comedy act with Jordan Peele called Key & Peele (think: A-A-Ron), but you might have also seen him in Friends From College, Playing House, and Dolemite Is My Name.
DeBose plays perfectionist Alyssa Greene, who wants to come out but fears the reactions of her mother and her friends, who expect her to play the role of the perfect daughter and student.
Where you’ve seen her: Yet another Broadway star, DeBose has appeared as The Bullet in Hamilton, as well as in Bring It On: The Musical, Motown The Musical, Pippin, A Bronx Tale: The Musical, and Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.
Chamberlin is Sheldon Saperstein, tasked with managing the dodgy public relations for Dee Dee and her cohort. He follows the team to Indiana to do a little damage control.
Where you’ve seen him: You’ll probably recognize Chamberlin from Modern Family or Grace and Frankie, but he’s also been on the big stage in musicals like Seussical, Wicked, The Addams Family, Chicago and The Ritz.
Mary Kay Place
Place plays Grandma Bea, who takes care of Emma in the wake of her coming out.
Where you’ve seen her: A bunch of iconic films, including Being John Malkovich, Girl, Interrupted, and The Big Chill.
Jo Ellen Pellman
Newcomer Pellman plays the lead, Emma Nolan, a relatively quiet, normal girl who’d like to live a normal, quiet life but finds herself at the center of a small-town scandal.
Where you’ve seen her: The Prom is considered Pellman’s debut, though she’s appeared in a couple television episodes on The Deuce and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
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