By Leah Nath, Contributing Writer
The arts departments of Gettysburg College puts on a musical spectacular for the community every two years, and this fall, the performance will be “The Prom!” Director and Theater Arts Professor Chris Kauffman returns after directing last year’s play “Shakespeare in Love.” This year, he is joined by choreographer Bruce Moore, a Broadway actor and native Gettysburgian who joined the Gettysburg stage as a guest director for “Next to Normal” in 2019. Kauffman and Moore are also assisted by musical director and Sunderman Conservatory of Music Voice Professor Susan Hochmiller.
Auditions for the show were held August 28 and 29, bringing in a cast and crew of more than 30 students. With rehearsals beginning the first week of September and stretching until the first week of November, the students and directors will have been preparing and polishing this show for months.
“The Prom!” opened on Broadway in November 2018, a full five years before the music would arrive at Gettysburg College’s stage. Jack Viertel designed the original concept for which Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin respectively wrote music and lyrics for. The musical was also adapted into a film in 2020 by Ryan Murphy, starring famous names including Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman and Keegan-Michael Key.
The first act begins with two actors, Dee Dee Allen (Adela Holahan ’24) and Barry Glickman (Aiden Ludka ’23), attempting to improve their reputation after a failed Broadway show. They join efforts with two other struggling actors, Trent Oliver (Logan Sodl ’24) and Angie Dickinson (Libby Drew ’24), to change their public image by helping a young girl in Indiana. Indiana highschooler Emma (Ren Mirenda ’27) has had her prom canceled because the community would not allow her to bring her girlfriend. After protesting, the state attorney rules that the school must reinstate the prom, and Emma’s girlfriend Alyssa (Katie Poliero ’25) promises to come out to the school when they attend the dance. When Emma arrives for the dance, she discovers that the PTA had tricked her, and Alyssa refuses to come out.
The actors begin to step up their game, taking more proactive action to encourage Emma to keep fighting and to address the community. Emma posts a video online about her struggle for acceptance, which motivates the actors to donate money and organize a queer-inclusive prom. The show is focused around motifs of acceptance, self-pride and empowerment, and it is ultimately a positive, uplifting musical.
Musicals are a feat to put on, requiring intensive efforts from a great number of people and combining various talents and skills to create an immersive art form. Evan Hilborn ’25 plays Sheldon in the show and said, “It’s so exciting being able to work with so many other talented actors and musicians in this musical. My favorite part of any show is always the way that we all become one show together, incorporating our own skills into one production.”
Another actor in the show, Scott Myers ’27, plays one of the highschoolers, and he shared his experience: “I really enjoyed the process, being able to make music in a new way, and engage with a new medium.”
One of the most special aspects of participating in the arts, particularly with stage shows, is the sense of community that is built from the effort necessary to create the performance. Holahan, a seasoned actress on the Gettysburg College stage said, “My favorite part of every show is how close you get to the people you do it with.”
“The Prom!” will open Nov. 2, 3 and 4 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 5 at 2 p.m. at the Majestic Theater.
Read The Gettysburgian’s review of “The Prom!” here.
This article originally appeared on page 7 of the No. 2 October 2023 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.
(Editor’s Note: This article has been edited from the print edition to correct the misspelling of Ren Mirenda’s name. -L. Franchetti)