How 'The Prom' Became One Memorable Night On Broadway

Deen van Meer
Christopher Sieber, Angie Schworer, Beth Leavel, Brooks Ashmanskas and Josh Lamon in The Prom.

What happens when four self-centered Broadway actors star in a musical about Eleanor Roosevelt, face horrid reviews, and then, to salvage their reputations, head to the Midwest to help a lesbian teenager go to her prom with her girlfriend?

That question was, most likely, never one that musical theater producers thought would become the premise for a hit real-life show -- but that's what happened when The Prom opened in late 2018. A mix of campy inside-joke catnip for musical lovers and heartwarming underdogs-persist-and-pull-through story, the show garnered some of the most overwhelmingly positive reviews in recent memory. Much of that praise was for its cast, led by a quartet of seasoned musical comedy stars, and for its zippy, hummable score. So on this week's Billboard on Broadway podcast, two of those stars -- Beth Leavel and Christopher Sieber -- join composer Matthew Sklar and lyricist and book writer Chad Beguelin to talk about The Prom's journey.

"It screamed comedy, but it had such important heart to it," says Beguelin of the story's appeal. "I think because the show has that emotional center, it really balances it out," says Sklar. "If that wasn't there, I think it might have had a different reaction. But because the heart is there, I think that's why it seems to work."

In their chat with host Rebecca Milzoff, Beguelin and Sklar discuss their longstanding creative partnership, and the foursome tell the hilarious behind-the-scenes stories about the evolution of The Prom's fake flop show, Eleanor: The Musical, explain the challenges of making comedy seem spontaneous onstage, and remember their own high school proms. 

#BillboardonBroadway is a weekly podcast devoted to all things musical theater and their overlap with pop music. Click here to subscribe to the #BillboardonBroadway podcast on iTunes, and let us know what you think on Twitter (@rebeccamilzoff) or by rating the podcast on iTunes.