‘The Prom’ Dances into Our Hearts

Netflix dropped “The Prom,” a film-adaptation of a stage musical by the same name, on Dec. 11, 2020,  

The two-hour movie takes place in Edgewater, Indiana and tells the story of Emma Nolan, a high school student who had her prom cancelled by asking her girlfriend to go with her.

Emma Nolan (Jo Ellen Pellman) and Alyssa Greene (Ariana DeBose) singing “Dance with You.” Image courtesy of @StewFan86 via Twitter.

 Emma, played by Jo Ellen Pellman, was kicked out of her parents home at 16 when she came out as gay. Her girlfriend, Alyssa Greene, played by Ariana DeBose, is the closeted daughter of the head PTA chairwoman, who cancelled the prom.

When four washed-out Broadway stars decide to step in, chaos breaks out in Edgewater. Dee Dee Allen, Barry Glickman, Trent Oliver and Angie Dickinson come from New York City under the guise of righting this wrong, but are only using Emma as a publicity stunt. They hope to raise their awful public image by forcing Edgewater to put on a prom. It is clear that the quartet are all hopelessly narcissistic and selfish, being too self-absorbed to notice the world moving on without them.

Together, Emma, Barry, Dee Dee, Trent, Angie and Tom Hawkins, the school’s principal, force the PTA to put on a prom that Emma can attend. Unfortunately, the PTA changes the location of the prom at the last minute, without telling Emma. Emma finds this out and is crushed when she arrives at the gym, finding it totally empty. 

(Left to right) Barry Glickman (James Corden), Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman), Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannels), and Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep) stand together singing the opening song. Image courtesy of @NicoleKidman via Twitter

In response to this injustice, the Broadway stars, plus Principal Hawkins, decide to throw an all-inclusive prom for kids across the state. Emma raises awareness for the prom by going online and telling her story. As the prom arrives, kids flood the venue, and Emma and Alyssa share a triumphant kiss. 


The Prom was inspired by the story of Constance McMillan, who stood in the shoes of Emma. Her story was largely forgotten, but now rings in the ears of people across the nation. 


The Prom does not just tell Emma’s story, it tells the story of thousands of people across the country. Every child that was bullied for who they loved or how they felt, every child who suffered abuse for holding hands with the wrong person, every child thrown out by their parents for daring to live as their true self can find solace in Emma Nolan. 

They can find escape in the toe-tapping music and eye-catching choreography and can find joy in Emma’s happy ending, hoping for their own. 

“The Prom” offers characters that everyone can relate to, regardless of who they love. The rich characters and driven plot give the story glitz outside the extravagant costuming. Audience members feel every twist and turn of the story as if they are a part of the movie itself, bringing them to the edge of their seats without fail. 

Watching the characters develop, learn and grow leaves a sense of fulfillment deep in one’s chest. 

Unlike most movies of this genre, The Prom ends with no discernible villain, instead allowing each so-called ‘villainous’ character to reach a place of understanding, both with Emma, and with themselves. 

The Prom preaches a message of love and acceptance. Paired with music that urges one to leave your seat and dance and choreography that leaves even the audience out of breath, “The Prom” is a movie one won’t forget. 


Emma and Alyssa stand triumphant in the rousing finale. Image courtesy of @Sottomilletreni via Twitter