There isn’t any rationale for homophobia; it is actually irrational, which from a dramatist’s viewpoint means it is that uncommon subject-matter not able to being made much less ridiculous by a even handed consideration of arguments in its favor. No, not even when these arguments are primarily based on spiritual scriptures. Comedic gold, in different phrases. Making enjoyable of it or having enjoyable with it does require thoughtfulness, nevertheless. So as to not overreach, a satire should not confuse the sin and the sinner; there are nonetheless a lot of folks of excellent will who someway imagine that homosexuality is a life-style alternative, or condemned by God. Demonizing them wholesale will predictably backfire. And maybe more difficult to a satirical strategy, although homophobia could also be ridiculous, the intense penalties it has wrought in so many lives are essentially sobering. So some thought is required.
The creators of The Promenade, a musical whose touring firm is briefly ensconced at Baltimore’s Hippodrome, likely noticed that second downside, thought of it exhausting, and got here up with a daring strategy to it, mixing a satire about homophobia with a comic book fantasia on two separate tried and true topics for loving ridicule: a) the establishment of the highschool promenade, and b) the lives and personalities of showbiz folks. Actual life had already supplied a template for this mixing. In 2010, a Mississippi college district had closed down a promenade to stop two feminine excessive schoolers from attending as a pair, and a cadre of showbiz and music people, headed up by the group Inexperienced Day, had come to rescue the event by staging a “Second Likelihood” promenade for the LGBT youngsters throughout the area made unwelcome at different proms. That’s roughly the plot of The Promenade.
Proms are an fascinating topic. As one of many songs says about this explicit promenade, “Though it should not matter/ It someway does.” A lot of what makes them matter usually goes not fairly said, partly as a result of everybody understands it, partly as a result of on their floor proms are absurd acts of frivolity. But they’re concurrently a severe enterprise, not solely due to the dollars-and-cents penalties when it comes to formal put on, flowers, dinners, chauffeurs, and so on., but in addition as a result of, not like with different dances, at proms there’s often stress to attend with a date. They’re a celebration of maturity, a ceremony of passage — and in addition (given the dates and the heavy emphasis upon the individuals’ sprucing up for the event) implicitly a celebration of the attendees’ sexuality, which makes an invite to take part an implicit demand that sexually nonconforming youngsters determine themselves. And in lots of instances, that might essentially indicate popping out, a severe factor, or within the different mendacity about themselves, an equally severe factor. And if the neighborhood is (as that Mississippi neighborhood apparently was) in denial concerning the sexuality of a lot of its youngsters (and the acceptability of it), the promenade generally is a second of confrontation and/or reckoning for the neighborhood at giant as nicely, which makes for drama if not so clearly for comedy.
In the meantime, the peculiarities of showbiz people are well-known and justly celebrated as one of the vital dependable sources of jokes. In comedies from Hay Fever to Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike to the recently-at-the-Hippodrome Tootsie, thespians seem as narcissistic, shallow, irrationally optimistic, unfit for the lives of strange people, dependent upon workers and enterprise associates with real-world life abilities to deal with the actual world, and way more vivid than strange people besides.
That works completely in a setting full of strange people. The Promenade plunks a nicely-assorted crew of those unusual beings down in fictional small-town of Edgewater, Indiana (in all probability adjoining on some imaginary map to Bye Bye Birdie‘s Candy Apple, Ohio), filled with neighborhood spirit, hormonal youngsters, and ripe for refashioning by outsiders. The thespian crew are refugees from a disastrous Broadway musical (about Eleanor Roosevelt, no much less!) closed after one efficiency on the premise of scathing opinions. They embody Dee Dee (Courtney Balan), a belting diva to whom everybody else is the universe is little greater than a prop, Barry (Patrick Wetzel), an over-the-hill matinee idol, Trent (Bud Weber), who went to Juilliard and appears to have ended his mental improvement there, and Angie (Emily Borromeo) who spent 20 years within the refrain of Chicago and stop as a result of she by no means was promoted to the position of Roxie Hart. All of them want a fast transfusion of excellent rep primarily based on some form of selfless act, and so they seize upon the plight of Emma (Kaden Kearney), a younger lesbian banned from her highschool promenade because the form of factor they will shortly and effortlessly clear up to the accompaniment of nice and wanted PR.
After all nothing goes as deliberate and naturally ultimately every little thing works out nonetheless, and the present brings superb enjoyable to the duty of exhibiting how all that occurs. The enjoyable would not occur if the underlying points did not obtain a good airing.
That is, in any case, firstly, a present about homophobia, and largely the dispute is a matter of generations. The older era, much less open to acceptance of numerous sexualities, is personified within the head of the PTA, Mrs. Greene (Ashanti J’Aria), chief of the hassle to carry the road in opposition to admitting Emma and her supposed date from the promenade. It’s not uncommon for many who battle publicly in opposition to acceptance to dwell personal lives that not directly have homosexual involvements, and tellingly, unknown to Mrs. Greene, Emma’s supposed date is Mrs. Greene’s personal daughter Alyssa (Kalyn West), that means that in resisting inclusivity she is unknowingly – or maybe not so unknowingly – resisting her personal daughter. As a result of there might be little question the reality will come out, this may go considered one of two methods: rupture or acceptance – and we all know rupture is feasible, as now we have seen it within the case of Emma and her dad and mom. What actually drives Mrs. Greene is perceptively recognized by Alyssa within the music Alyssa Greene and it is not sincere thought however compulsion, although considerably comprehensible compulsion. The older-generation foil to Mrs. Greene is the principal, Mr. Hawkins (Sinclair Mitchell), who struggles, within the face of the widespread intolerance of Mrs. Greene and her ilk, to carry a humane decision to the battle over the promenade. (Mr. Hawkins additionally capabilities as a love curiosity for Dee Dee.)
The youthful era have their very own acceptance drama. There’s a reflexive junior-division homophobia at work in the highschool class, manifested primarily in bullying, however accompanied by some covert envy, since among the bullies could also be questioning their very own sexuality greater than they really feel protected to acknowledge. And there’s additionally a head-on confrontation with the one factor which may look like a justification for homophobia, biblical dicta. As everyone knows, there are passages within the Previous Testomony that appear to forbid homosexuality. For severe children who could as an example have gone to bible camp like Alyssa, this may occasionally look like a considerable cause to finish the dialogue and reject additional makes an attempt to cause the matter by. However a music sung by Trent (Love Thy Neighbor) forcefully kicks the door open in opposition to such makes an attempt to shut it. In an echo of President Jeb Bartlet disposing of an obnoxious evangelical chief in The West Wing (S2 E3), Trent lists for such youngsters the implications of taking each OT prohibition equally critically.
Kaylee has a small tattoo
That tattoo can be taboo
Kaylee, guess what waits for you
An eternity within the fiery pits of hell!
And to a child whose mother is divorced:
Oh, divorce is an enormous no-no.
To not over simplify
However the scripture does indicate
That your mother should die
How’s tomorrow if she’s not received any plans?
Because the above excerpts additionally illustrate, the lyrics, by Chad Begulin, are exceptionally witty. And Matthew Sklar‘s music is rarely lower than serviceable and at mandatory occasions fairly transferring. It could be exhausting to get by watching the second act with out misting eyes, and for that Sklar can take a lot of the credit score, particularly for the transferring duet between the younger lovers Emma and Alyssa, Dance with You, launched within the first act and reprised within the finale.
The cumulative impact of all this cautious thought constructing The Promenade is that there is hardly a joke that misfires, hardly a dance step that does not thrill, and hardly a music that does not join. All of it works collectively, and the viewers will depart completely sated. To not miss.
The Promenade, e-book by Bob Martin and Chad Begulin, music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Begulin, directed by Casey Nicholaw, by January 23 on the Hippodrome Theatre, The France-Merrick Performing Arts Middle, 12 N. Eutaw Road, Baltimore, MD 21201. Tickets $48-190 at Ticketmaster. Grownup language, sexuality.
Manufacturing photograph by Deen Van Meer.