Rider musical theater opens season with ‘The Prom’

By Julia Train

After countless hours in the theater, COVID pausing rehearsals and a long, uncertain tech week, “The Prom” persisted from Oct. 6-8. 

During tech week, the time leading up to a production that tends to be longer for performers and staffers, and consists of more tiring hours, three leads were sick as their understudies practiced for them.

Last month, multiple cast members caught COVID, which led to three rehearsals being canceled.

However, in the end, none of the hurdles mattered.

From the moment the curtain opened, the audience was immediately captivated and applauded.

The show was filled with comedic songs and one-liners, elaborate dance numbers with high kicks, twirls, jumps and an important message.

“All the lines [in the show] are so funny, but they do resonate so deeply,” said senior musical theater major Nicole Duffy. “It’s a show about just celebrating humanity with the message of accepting queer love.”

Written in 2016 and adapted to the screen in 2020, the musical centers around four Broadway actors mourning their days of fame after their latest show flops and they find out their narcissism makes them strongly disliked. 

The four actors, looking for a way to regain admiration, travel to the conservative town of Edgewater, Indiana, to help a lesbian student banned by the Parent and Teachers Association from attending prom with her girlfriend.

The male students perform a number to ask their girlfriends to the prom. 
Photo courtesy of Peter Borg

“A lot of us in the cast talked about how in high school, when we had prom, a lot of us who are queer didn’t get to take the date that we wanted to come. It wasn’t allowed by our schools,” said Duffy, who went to a Catholic high school.

She mentioned that her school also had similar rules for proms that the PTA in the show had: “You must bring a date of the opposite sex, girls must wear a dress and boys wear suits.”

Duffy portrayed the girlfriend, Alyssa Greene, opposite Mai Caslowitz, who played Emma Nolan – the lesbian barred from the prom.

Although Caslowitz’s performance was captivating, there was a time where they were apprehensive about performing on the main stage, which refers to shows that are produced by Rider University, not students. 

Around finals time, auditions were held for the three musicals of the 2023-24 academic year. 

Caslowitz, a junior musical theater major who uses they/them pronouns, was excited but nervous at the proposition of the role when they saw the casting list at the end of the spring semester. 

“I thought, ‘That’s a lot of responsibility.’ I was kind of scared because I’ve never been on the main stage,” they said.

Nevertheless, Caslowitz knew they wanted to be the one to tell Emma’s story and they connected to her personality, which was shy with a goofy side. 

Throughout the show, their performance wowed the crowd as they held out high notes that filled the theater and portrayed the character’s emotions.

Any chance the audience got, they cheered, making it clear the show was a success through the entirety of the performance.

The final number took place at a new prom, where Emma was able to go with her girlfriend and others who were inspired by her attended dressed how they wanted with whoever they wished to bring. 

“It might look like as a society we moved up, but there’s still people who aren’t accepting,” Caslowitz said. “My favorite part was being able to see how my classmates have grown into themselves and being able to connect with people I wouldn’t normally connect with.”

There was a disco ball, colorful lights, an LED rainbow across the top of the stage, sparkly costumes and confetti. As it ended, the audience gave a standing ovation.

The cast of “The Prom” performs the finale number. 
Photo courtesy of Peter Borg

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