The Prom Has Zazz

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Angie Schworer talks Broadway’s new musical comedy

Angie (Angie Schworer) teaches Emma (Caitlin Kinnunen) to “give it some zazz.” (Photos by Deen van Meer)

With a glance at the Broadway musical’s name, The Prom appears to be a production about the night from high school everyone remembers, but the show is so much more. Under the guise of comedy, The Prom dives deeper, covering themes of acceptance and the simple idea of standing up for and helping others.

As soon as the curtains unveil and the stage lights come on, Dee Dee Allen (Beth Leavel) and Barry Glickman (Brooks Ashmanskas) appear on stage in glitter and glitz as two stars who receive a poor New York Times review on their latest show, Eleanor!: The Eleanor Roosevelt Story, commanding a room of laughter almost immediately. The review notes that the Broadway celebrities do not understand their characters because they appear to be too self involved, so to fix their image, the two, along with Trent Oliver (Christopher Sieber), who is obsessed with telling everyone he meets about his time at Julliard, and Angie (Angie Schworer), a lifelong chorus girl who quit her job in Chicago after constantly being overlooked for the role of Roxie Hart, set out to show the world they’re not a bunch of narcissists.

“It’s funny; maybe [narcissism] is [on the rise] with social media and Instagram, but I also feel we have hope,” Schworer said of narcissism today, which the production touches on. “The young ensemble are so grateful and respectful and not narcissistic. We have a group here that is not like that. But it’s part of the society now. I think it is. We portray very narcissistic versions of ourselves and a lot of that is in our culture now.”

As the four scroll through Twitter to find a cause to get behind in order to appear less self involved, they come across the story of Emma (Caitlin Kinnunen) from Indiana, whose high school prom was canceled by the PTA because she wanted to bring her girlfriend. The musical comedy follows the actors as they fly to Indiana to rally behind Emma for their own personal gain, but soon the story unfolds and the characters find the cause is worthy of their attention for the injustice, not for the publicity.

“I raised two teenagers, so I know how hard it is at that time to express yourself,” said Schworer of the meaningful messages the show shares. “It’s an awkward time. You don’t have that inner zazz yet. This story is about every high schooler being afraid to be who they are. It’s important to tell a story that any young person should be able to find a place to express who they are, love who they love and be who they want to be. I get on a daily basis young people saying ‘thank you for telling this story, I can feel different and feel safe.’ This show is doing exactly what we wanted it to do.”

Hardcore Broadway fans will love the show for the production’s references to Broadway itself and past and present shows playing in the district. Along with its messages of acceptance, The Prom offers a little something for everyone from romance to a monster truck jam to recorders to quirky dance moves. The performance offers fast and fun songs like “Love Thy Neighbor,” as well as Fosse-style songs like “Zazz” that plays on Chicago’s “All That Jazz.”

“It’s exactly what my middle-aged body can pull off at this moment,” joked Schworer. “It’s like an oozing delicious number to perform. It’s an honor to get to do it and it’s so much fun because it’s exactly what I do, which is vertical with gestures and giving a little hip and sexy.”

The cast of characters, with Tony Award-nominees (Ashmanskas and Sieber) and a Tony Award-winner (Leavel), is hysterical and the entire show might be worth it just to see Leavel’s facial expressions throughout the production.

“The four of us have been doing this together for six years, so it’s like playing with friends in a room every day and watching their comic brilliance and learning,” said Schworer, whose part as Angie was made specifically for her and after her. “It’s like six years of a master class.”

The Prom is directed and choreographed by Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw (Mean Girls, The Book of Mormon) and features a book by Tony Award-winner Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone) and four-time Tony Award-nominee Chad Beguelin (Aladdin) with music by Tony Award-nominee Matthew Sklar and lyrics by four-time Tony Award-nominee Beguelin.

“This is a dream come true,” said Schworer. “I feel like the luckiest girl in show business. When Casey Nicholaw asks you to do a project, you jump on board.”

The Prom is currently playing at the Longacre Theatre, 220 W 48th St. For more information, visit www.theprommusical.com and for tickets, visit www.telecharge.com or visit the box office.

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