See the glitter-tux-filled first trailer for Ryan Murphy's The Prom

Maureen Lee Lenker
·5 min read

Order your limo and call the florist for that corsage, because Netflix is officially asking you to The Prom.

EW has your first look at the trailer for the musical film, hitting the streaming platform Dec. 11. Directed by Ryan Murphy and adapted from the celebrated Broadway musical of the same name, The Prom tells the story of a troupe of self-obsessed theaters stars — played here by Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, and Andrew Rannells — who descend on a conservative small town in Indiana to take up the cause of Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend, Alyssa (Ariana DeBose), to the prom.

"I wanted to make something that was in tradition of the old movie musicals that I grew up loving with my grandmother," Murphy tells EW. "I wanted to make something that had the sparkle and the charm and humor of Singin' in the Rain. That's a show business story. It's a look at the inside of the film world, as opposed to The Prom, which looks at the Broadway community, but when you saw the musical on Broadway, it is just full steam ahead and never stops. I loved that quality, because it did feel old-fashioned and modern."

The trailer features the core quartet of washed-up Broadway stars who make Emma's prom their cause, as well as the community from the Indiana school at the heart of the narrative, including Alyssa's mom, conservative PTA president Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington), and Emma's confidante Mr. Hawkins (Keegan-Michael Key). It's bursting with sequins and glitter, joyous musical numbers, and a monster truck rally (it will make sense in context, we promise).

For Murphy and his team, The Prom making its holiday-season release date is a bit of a miracle. The film had an almost rapturous beginning, with less than a month between Murphy seeing the Broadway production and getting the adaptation greenlit. In that time, he reached out to Streep, Kidman, Corden, and Washington, and got resounding yeses from them almost instantaneously.

He conducted a nationwide search to find his Emma and Alyssa, before landing on Pellman and DeBose, who both say that every day on set was basically the best day of their life. "I just couldn't stop thinking about how I was not only living my own dream from when I was little and wanting to do this, but also that it was going to bring so much joy to queer kids around the world," Pellman says.

For DeBose, it was significant to have such an incredible caliber of talent leading the charge from the get-go. "It meant a lot to me personally that all of these legends showed up for this story right now," she says. "The fact that they all just jumped and said yes, that's actually really important. Because it's a signal to everybody that this matters, that this story has weight. In 2020, it's exactly what we need."

But things got dicey when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing The Prom to shut down just three days before the scheduled end of filming. Through careful planning with scientists and local government, Murphy and the crew were able to get back to work to meet their holiday deadline — and we could certainly use the uplift these days. "It's a balm," says Murphy. "It's just joyful and makes you feel good, and that's what people want."

Melinda Sue Gordon/NETFLIX

While this will mark both Pellman and DeBose's introduction to film audiences on this scale, for Murphy, it's a return to familiar ground. He of course endeared himself to younger audiences with the Fox sitcom Glee, a musical series all about finding your voice and fitting in at a Midwestern high school (Murphy himself is from Indiana). They even filmed sequences of The Prom at the same Los Angeles high school where Glee shot.

As to why he's drawn to this, Murphy quips, "I wonder that myself and have gone through many deep therapy sessions about that." But in all seriousness, he points to audiences' desire to watch people experience big moments and firsts in their life.

"This movie is about, for these two young women, the first time they stood up for themselves and declared who they were and they got to go to their prom," he says. "I wish this movie existed when I was that age. Because I wasn't allowed to go to my prom. Every person in the world has longed to have that experience go well and to be told, 'You look great. You can love who you love, and all the adults around you support you,' so I just think it's a universal idea. For me, it was a personal reason, the Indiana connection."

While The Prom promises to be a welcome burst of joy in a very difficult year, it also carries extra weight courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic. The musical wouldn't exist without live theater and Broadway, which has been shuttered since March and looks unlikely to reopen until summer 2021.

"It's hard right now for so many artists, especially live entertainment," says DeBose, who has appeared on Broadway in shows like Hamilton. "The fact that we still have this outlet to bring art to everyone, especially because we're bringing musicals into people's homes, I'm relishing it because art is so important. Art heals; it gives us the ability to talk about really important things. It means everything to realize that there's still an avenue to receive new music and musical theater. It keeps our hope for Broadway alive."

Murphy also acknowledges the sobering realities of Broadway in this moment, telling EW there are plans in the works to hold screenings and events related to The Prom to fundraise for the Actor's Fund. "One of the things that we're trying to say with the movie," he says, "is not only do we celebrate you, but we also see you and we feel your pain, and we're going to be there to help you."

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