Creative volunteers at Arlington Players stage musical ‘The Prom’ in Northern Virginia

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'The Prom' by The Arlington Players (Part 1)

EDITOR’S NOTE: “The Prom” is co-produced by WTOP’s own Sandy Kozel, one of the many theater volunteers.

High school proms are still a few months away in May, but grab that corsage and boutonniere early!

The Arlington Players stage the hit Broadway musical “The Prom” now through Sunday, April 7 at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Arlington, Virginia.

“It’s a very funny show in many ways,” director Joanna Henry told WTOP. “There are a lot of funny moments, but there are also some serious ones in there. It’s got a great message about acceptance and accepting those who are different and recognizing the humanity in all of us.”

Written by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin with music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Beguelin, the musical premiered in Atlanta in 2016 before hitting Broadway in 2018, earning seven Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical. It gained further attention when Ryan Murphy (“Glee”) adapted it into a movie musical on Netflix in 2020, starring Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key and Ariana DeBose.

“It’s loosely based actually on a true story about a high school student who wanted to take her girlfriend to the prom, but the PTA shut it down,” Henry said. “There was some backlash to that, so a couple of Broadway stars who don’t have the greatest public image, they’re seen as narcissists, they’re trying to change their image, so they go with other Broadway people to this small town in Indiana to try to revamp their images and kind of muscle in to change the town and try to give Emma the prom she deserves.”

The two prom dates, Emma Nolan and Alyssa Greene, are played by Emily Carbone and Jummy Lash, while the two visiting Broadway stars, Dee Dee Allen and Barry Glickman, are played by Judy Lewis and Patrick M. Doneghy.

“They’re volunteers,” Henry said. “These people are coming in on their own time. The commitment and dedication they give is just unmatched. This cast, crew and everyone are so committed to doing the best that they can and making this the best possible show that they can make it. The fact that it’s all volunteer makes it all the more special, because they’re coming here after work to rehearse. It’s not their ‘job.’ Everybody is doing it because they love theater.”

Henry is a recent retiree, having served for many years as the director of Theater Arts at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Virginia. She now works with fellow volunteers, from music director Blakeman Brophy to choreographer Jeremy A. McShan, to bring the show’s dazzling musical numbers to life onstage.

“It’s a huge dance show with a lot of spirited choreography,” Henry said. “The opening number [‘Changing Lives’] is fun. … There’s a promposal song with the students’ innovations to the prom. ‘It’s Time to Dance’ is a great number, another big dance number. ‘I Just Want to Dance with You’ is a beautiful song between the two girls. There’s a send-off to Bob Fosse with a song called ‘Zazz’ … and there is a song called ‘The Acceptance Song.'”

The most poignant lyric might just be sung by Trent in the song “Love Thy Neighbor.”

“He sings, ‘Time to make some better choices. Drop the hate and raise your voices,'” Henry said.

Find more information here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'The Prom' by The Arlington Players (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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