An Appreciation of PROM QUEEN at the Grand Theatre in London, Ont.

by Lynn on September 28, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Grand Theatre, London, Ont.


Book by Kent Staines

Music by Colleen Dauncey

Lyrics by Akiva Romer-Segal

Orchestrations by Justin Goldner

Based on the true story of Marc Hall

Directed by Dennis Garnhum

Musical director, Andrew Petrasiunas

Choreographed by Lisa Stevens

Set by David Boechler

Costumes by Lisa Wright

Lighting by Kimberly Purtell

Sound by Emily Porter

Cast: Bradley Amesse

Leyla Boyacigil

Jack Crim

Maddie Daley

Matt De Kort

Dominique Delben

Sarah Dennison

Devon Dixon

Marcy Gallant

Hunter Gowan

Damon Guidolin

Tanner Hamlin

Olivia Ho

Maya Sen Chawla

Shae Solomon

Keith Ssemugenyi

Matthew Van Bussel

Isaac Van Deven

And a wonderfully talented ensemble of 32.

This production of Prom Queen is this year’s “High School Project” at the Grand Theatre in London, Ont.  What is “The High School Project” (HSP)? It’s the only theatre program of its kind in North America. It is a creation of the Grand Theatre that started it in 1998.  It offers high school students education and training in theatre. They are mentored by professionals in every area of theatre: performance, directions, design, stage management, etc. The training culminates in a fully staged production on the Grand Theatre’s Spriet stage. Prom Queen is this year’s selection and the first Canadian musical to be part of the project. The show was developed through Sheridan College’s Canadian Music Theatre Project, It had its world premiere in Montreal at the Segal Centre for the Performing Arts, and it had a public workshop at the Other Palace in London, England.

Because Prom Queen is this year’s “High School Project” at the Grand Theatre, I have been asked not to review it. Fair enough. So this is an overview piece.

Prom Queen is everything Heathers The Musical isn’t. (that is the last time I will mention Heathers The Musical.) Prom Queen covers its subject in a thoughtful book with beautiful lyrics and a strong melodic score.

It’s based on the true story of Marc Hall of Oshawa. In 2002 he wanted to take his boyfriend to the Prom. The administration of his Catholic high school said no because taking his boyfriend did not adhere to the Catholic School Board’s idea of family values. Marc took them to court. Marc won and that very night he took his boyfriend to the prom.

Along the way there was opposition from the school’s administration. The Bible was quoted. Marc was supported by his parents (initially his father was reluctant for his own reasons, but eventually whole-heartedly supported his son), by his many friends, by the public. The characters in the piece are complex and multi-dimensional. The situation was serious and was treated with respect. It’s a humourous piece as well. There is nothing gratuitous. The angst of being a teen is explored with thought and respect, in song and dialogue.

The production was directed by Dennis Garnhum who is the Artistic Director of the Grand. The designers, conductor, and stage management etc. are professional and all those high school students assist them and learn from the pros. The cast blew me away.

I’m ashamed that I did not see a High School Project before this one because the words “high school” turned me off. Shame on me. Never again. I will seek out this effort every year from now on. And so should you. Alas it closes tomorrow, Sept. 29.

Interestingly, of the huge company of students, five of them go to Catholic schools. Progress.  

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