Prom Kween

From the producers of bold, subversive and wonderfully camp comedy musicals: Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho and How to Win Against History, Prom Kween certainly has a lot going for it and looks promising to fans of the genre. So it really is a shame and a let-down that the new offering lacks the level of wit and self-awareness to be considered in the same league.

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.

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Performances

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The Blurb

From the producers of the five-star hits Margaret Thatcher: Queen of Soho, How to Win Against History and Dizney Rascal, Prom Kween is a coming of age satire for those who hit that age years ago. A musical for any kid who took their glasses off and still didn't look pretty. Any kid who questioned what it meant to be beautiful. It's a story of falling in love with who you are. Think Grease meets Drag Race meets a Trump rally with sequins. Lots of sequins. Proudly part of the Underbelly Untapped season.

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