Prom Kween begins as it means to sashay on, with members of the cast painting the audience’s faces with glitter and bubblegum pop blasting from speakers. The screen on stage displays bombastic images of Britney Spears, Mean Girls and Clueless and it’s clear we’re here for some outrageously camp fun.
The musical is inspired by the story of Matthew Crisson – a US school student who identified as gender non-binary and who, in 2016, was elected prom queen. He was both lauded and criticised for his victory and the event was widely reported on by media. Although Prom Kween fictionalises the story surrounding Crisson, it celebrates the essence of what gained the story so much traction: the message of acceptance, diversity and pride. Rebecca Humphries‘ musical tells the story of Matthew’s prom queen campaign, particularly focusing on the other high school archetypes surrounding him: the popular girl, the handsome guy, and the best friend. However, there isn’t much room for melancholic reflection or morose monologues. Prom Kween is as flamboyant as you can imagine.
Every minute is punctuated with dance moves, glitter flying, costume changes and wigs galore. The music itself is fantastic, openly parodying some well-known songs from Grease and Cher with the addition of hilarious new lyrics and pop culture references. The entire thing is narrated by William Donaldson playing RuPaul Charles who cracks the audience up with every wink and finger snap, gleefully quoting lines from TV hit Drag Race. He opens and closes the show completely in command and lets us know this is a performance rehearsed to perfection. The remainder of the cast are also on-point throughout, delivering exhilarating singing, dancing and wisecracking that have us laughing and clapping in equal measure, and who no doubt collapse in exhaustion at the end of every performance.
There is clearly a target audience here. If the name of the show and its accompanying fabulous posters haven’t already made it obvious, this is a celebration of all things pop culture, queer and camp. And every line that’s been written by Humphries lets this target audience know that Prom Kween is for them; an homage to all things they might love. However, even if you aren’t the intended demographic, it would be pretty tough not to be impressed by the choreography, sass and kitsch excitement of it all.
The only pause in tone arrives at the show’s climax, and it happens meaningfully as the actors inform us of some of the true details of Crisson’s story, including the faith-restoring words of support from Crisson’s 2016 Prom King on Facebook, as well as a reminder that this all happened in reality only one week after the horrendous mass shooting at Orlando LGBT nightclub Pulse. It’s a poignant epilogue to the show, reminding us of the importance of its existence in the first place: to not only showcase LGBT culture, but to celebrate it as loudly and unapologetically as possible.