From the producers of bold, subversive and wonderfully camp comedy musicals:
Like so many high school students, Prom Kween has had a crisis of identity
The basic premise is that a non-binary high school student wants to become Prom Queen but is such a ‘nobody’ that they have no chance of beating the popular, obvious choice, Lexi. There are some inspired comedic moments, courtesy of Lexi, who is a terrifying mixture of Theresa May and Regina George from Mean Girls, and in her own words, ‘like a Disney princess but not as racist’. There are some other highly amusing stereotypes and subversions of them, from the high school jock and nerdy sidekick to the gun-toting, white supremacist, homophobic policeman and parents that liberals love to hate. It’s notable that the actor playing the RuPaul-inspired drag queen compere is the one to provide the most insightful observations and is, arguably, the most realistic character of them all. This is highly commendable and encouraging to see as it does go some way to providing a somewhat accurate voice for some members of the LGBTQ+ community. This is especially the case in the moving final moments when they pay tribute to the true stories that inspired the show and the horrifying homophobic massacre in Orlando last year.
However, this is also where some of the issues with the show start to emerge: the company clearly have enough wit and intelligence to recognise and mock the problematic cultural influences that inspired Prom Kween but in some cases it only perpetuates them, especially the transphobia that is so prevalent in drag culture. The main character being non-binary feels tacked on and poorly realised while the majority of the jokes and songs seem designed to cater for straight people who can then pat themselves on the back for being so understanding and open-minded. By playing into certain stereotypes, the cast and creative team do both the straight and LGBTQ+ communities a disservice.
It’s clear to see just how good Prom Kween could be, which is frustrating as I genuinely wanted it to be an uplifting and empowering experience for the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, like so many high school students, it’s had a crisis of identity and can’t decide what it wants to be yet.