About 13 years ago, a Mississippi school district gained international attention for banning a Grade 12 student from taking her female date to the prom.
Student Constance McMillen sued the school, which in turn cancelled its event for graduates.
In a show of support for inclusivity, a private prom was set up; however, parents against that celebration organized a secret prom for their kids, of which McMillen and her same-sex date weren’t invited.
The story of homophobic backlash is the basis of a show being presented next month at Coquitlam's Gleneagle Secondary.
And a few of the leads, who were interviewed Thursday (April 20) by the Tri-City News, said they’re also feeling a bit anxious about the reception given the recent protest at the Coquitlam Public Library for Drag Queen Story Time.
In February, a handful of opponents parked a truck in front of the City Centre branch and shouted hateful language at a crowd that was supporting the drag queen reading stories inside the library.
The student show, called The Prom, "has a story line that is tremendously meaningful today," drama teacher Justin Maller told the Tri-City News, referring to the Coquitlam library incident.
"There are still places where people can't do the things they want to do and we wanted to highlight that. The musical is about acceptance of the LGBTQ2+ community."
The Prom, which premiered on Broadway in 2018, follows four Broadway actors — Barry Glickman, Trent Oliver, Dee Dee Allen and Angie Dickinson — who are trying to revive their careers after their show flops.
While searching for good public relations, they hitch their star to a lesbian student in Edgewater, Indiana, who is stopped from bringing her girlfriend to the prom.
"They're trying to save the lesbians, but really they’re trying to save their own careers," said Gyu Min Jang, who portrays Trent (and last year played Cinderella's prince in Gleneagle’s musical production of Into the Woods).
"The show is meant to entertain, but also to reflect on society. We've got a long way to go with acceptance. Unfortunately, there is a stigma out there that remains."
"It's not your classic sing-a-song, do-a-dance kind of theatre," added fellow Grade 12 student Nathan Nishimura, 17.
"It definitely tackles some themes that can be sensitive. I'm a little scared myself that there might be some resistance, but if people stop to listen, it's very meaningful and there’s a message behind the show."
Chloe Summer, a Grade 10 student playing the character of Dee Dee, said the music and the moves are "very energetic," especially under the choreography of Gleneagle alumna Candice Kerr.
And the former Broadway Bound dance student said she’s looking forward to the public performances (afternoon shows are also being arranged for feeder schools).
Meanwhile, the roles of the same-sex couple, Emma Nolan and Alyssa Greene, are being portrayed by Indah Del Bianco and Hannah Strocel, who are both graduating in June.
Maller said Gleneagle Secondary received special permission from Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) to perform The Prom; it also plans to mount the production this summer at Stanley Park.
Gleneagle's The Prom is made up of 35 students in the Musical Theatre class plus 40 in the crew, he said, while the costumes are on loan from Heritage Woods and Pinetree secondaries.
The Prom runs at Gleneagle Secondary (1195 Lansdowne Dr.) on May 3 to 5 and 10 to 12 at 7 p.m. each night.
It has music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin and a book by Bob Martin and Beguelin. The musical is based on an original concept by Jack Viertel. For tickets, visit showtix4u.com.