Ryan Murphy's take on the hit Broadway musical The Prom is coming to Netflix — bringing the show's incredible performances and characters along with it. But the true spectacular of The Prom is its songs, which include remakes of the music featured in the original musical along with some very welcome new additions. (Including a rap number from Meryl Streep.)
The Prom follows Emma Nolan (Jo Ellen Pellman), a high school student in a conservative Indiana town who wants to take her girlfriend, Alyssa (Ariana DeBose), to prom. Despite having the full support of her high school principal, Mr. Hawkins (Keegan-Michael Key), she's unable to do so because the PTA would rather cancel prom entirely than let two girls go to prom together. Enter: Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep), Barry Glickman (James Corden), Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman), and Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells), a group of narcissistic actors looking for a bit of good personal PR. So when they hear of Emma's plight they truck off to Indiana to give her a night to remember — or so they hope to, at least, until their best laid plans go awry.
It's a heartwarming plot, to be sure, one almost tailor-made for the stage. During its run on Broadway for the 2018-2019 season, The Prom garnered a lot of buzz from critics, thanks in no small part to its catchy, hilarious, uplifting soundtrack, written by Chad Beguelin and Matthew Sklar. And fans of the stage show will be pleased to know that, according to Broadway Direct, the entire song list featured in the Broadway production made its way into the Netflix adaptation. Plus a few exciting new tunes.
Here are all the nitty-gritty details and behind-the-scenes insights about The Prom's soundtrack, directly from Beguelin and Sklar themselves.
1. Changing Lives – Meryl Streep, James Corden, The Prom Ensemble
"We wanted to introduce the audience to Dee Dee Allen and Barry Glickman with an over-the-top, brassy Broadway song that’s full of confidence and blustering ego," says Sklar. "They are so full of themselves that they really think they are changing lives with their theatre careers."
2. Changing Lives (Reprise) – Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells
With all four the stars united, it is of course time for a reprise. Sklar said, "These four crazy actors are now going to be activists, but they have no clue what they’re getting themselves into. I particularly like Chad’s lyrics at the end, where Barry sings: 'We’re gonna teach them to be more P.C. — the minute our group arrives!' And then the quartet goes on to rattle off a list of very un-P.C. things."
3. Just Breathe – Jo Ellen Pellman
"This song is Emma’s inner monologue about dealing with the woes of high school bullying," Sklar explains about the touching song. "She dreams of going to a place where she’s accepted for who she is. But for now, she copes by telling herself to ‘just breathe’."
4. It's Not About Me – Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells, Kevin Chamberlin, Keegan-Michael Key, Jo Ellen Pellman, Kerry Washington, The Prom Ensemble
Sklar says that "this song was great fun to write. Musically, I tried to challenge myself by writing in odd time signatures — it brings an off-balance feeling to the proceedings. Dee Dee bursts in to the Edgewater High School PTA meeting to show her outrage for cancelling the prom. She says it’s not about her, but all she does is reference herself throughout the song. She is incensed, but hasn’t really done any work to find out why."
5. Dance with You – Jo Ellen Pellman, Ariana DeBose
"Early in the development process of The Prom, we were searching for Emma’s 'I want' song," Sklar explains, referring to the trope where any main character in a musical always has one song where they make it super obvious what they want. "One morning I woke up to an email from Chad [Beguelin] with the lyrics for 'Dance with You'. I read them and immediately welled up with tears and ran to the piano. We wrote it very quickly. The simplicity of the lyric and melody feel right for these two wonderful girls who just want to dance with each other."
6. The Acceptance Song – Andrew Rannells, Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, The Prom Ensemble
Sklar says, "This song was an interesting assignment because it had to be a 'bad' song since it’s written by Trent at the last minute. Chad [Beguelin] went for purposely bad rhymes and I tried to make the music sound very self important."
7. You Happened – Jo Ellen Pellman, Ariana DeBose, Nathaniel J. Potvin, Nico Greetham, The Prom Ensemble
There were many versions of this song made before they settled on one, as Sklar explains, "Originally it was a duet between Emma and Alyssa. Then we discovered the phenomenon of the 'promposal' and decided to start with two straight couples. Then we cut to Emma and Alyssa celebrating in private. I wanted it to be upbeat and catchy, so I thought about a modern take on Motown — because who doesn’t love Motown?"
8. We Look to You – Keegan-Michael Key
There's a meta commentary to We Look to You. "This song is our love letter to the theatre. We love it so and miss it terribly during these dark days. This orchestration is full of emotion and Keegan sings it beautifully," Sklar explains.
9. Tonight Belongs to You – Jo Ellen Pellman, James Corden, Kerry Washington, Logan Riley, Sofia Deler, The Prom Ensemble / 10. Tonight Belongs to You (Reprise) – Jo Ellen Pellman
"We wanted a song that could encompass many different viewpoints," says Beguelin. "The song floats from Barry and Emma, to the kids at school, to Alyssa and her mother and then back to the whole community. The word 'belongs' is all about ownership and we see how that ownership leads to some people being excluded. It starts in a very empowering place, but as Alyssa’s mother starts to sing, there are hints that there might be ulterior motives at play."
11. Zazz – Nicole Kidman, Jo Ellen Pellman
"We totally made up a fake word that stands for 'show girl confidence'. There are so many funny slang words on Broadway and we wanted to give Angie one of her own. It seemed to make sense that a chorus girl would know exactly how to get someone over stage fright," Beguelin says.
12. The Lady's Improving – Meryl Streep
There's levels to "The Lady's Improving," explains Beguelin. "It’s supposed to be a song from a musical that Dee Dee starred in," he says. "But the lyrics had to play double duty and apply to Dee Dee’s real life situation. It was especially important that each verse ended with, 'Don’t give up on her yet' since that is what Dee Dee is essentially begging Mr. Hawkins in real life."
13. Alyssa Greene – Ariana DeBose
Shedding light on Emma's romantic partner, Alyssa, is her titular track. "We wanted this song to show how much pressure Alyssa is under so that the audience understands why she has so much trouble coming out to her mother. She has a laundry list of expectations thrust upon her that no one could ever live up to," Beguelin says.
14. Love Thy Neighbor – Andrew Rannells, Nathaniel J. Potvin, Nico Greetham, Logan Riley, Sofia Deler, The Prom Ensemble
If the title sounds familiar, that's because it was designed to. This is one of my favorite songs in the entire movie," says Beguelin. "As a gay man, I get furious when people cherry pick the Bible to support their bigotry, but then ignore all of the so-called rules that they’re breaking every day. It also functions as a way to have the character of Trent create some real change in the small town. He’s able to turn the students’ minds around and they end up supporting Emma after all."
15. Barry is Going to Prom – James Corden
As someone who missed their own prom, Barry has some idea of what it would be like for Emma if the prom stays cancelled. "It was very important to show the audience why going to a dance means so much to Barry," says Beguelin. "Lyrically I wanted to show how missing his own prom really affected him and how much joy he has at finally righting that wrong. And, of course, the reference to his mom hits home for anyone who’s been rejected by a parent for just being who they are."
16. Unruly Heart – Jo Ellen Pellman, The Prom Ensemble
Beguelin says, "We wanted another very heartfelt song for Emma and to show that she’s willing to fight to be who she is and not let anyone else tell her differently. We also added the other characters because we wanted to show that Emma wasn’t alone in her quest."
17. It's Time to Dance – Jo Ellen Pellman, Ariana DeBose, Meryl Streep, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, Nicole Kidman, Kevin Chamberlin, Keegan-Michael Key, Kerry Washington, The Prom Ensemble
"In a way, this song is in response to 'Dance With You'," says Beguelin. "Finally, after all the twists and turns, Emma and Alyssa get to have the night they wished for. It’s made even better by the fact that they’re joined by anyone who wants to 'get on the floor!'"
18. Wear Your Crown – Meryl Streep, Ariana DeBose, Jo Ellen Pellman, Kerry Washington, Nicole Kidman
This is the song where fans finally get to hear Streep rap. "It song was written specifically for the movie and is all about pride and being yourself and learning to 'shine your light around'," says Beguelin. "My favorite lyric is, 'No one can take your pride unless you let them.' It sums up the movie and it’s something that I have to remind myself of from time-to-time."