“Write a scene for Meryl Streep on a bus, give Nicole Kidman a laugh line, make me cry and get it to me as fast as you can!”
For Bridgehamptonite Chad Beguelin, writing the film adaptation of his Broadway musical The Prom was a dream come true. Directed by Hollywood power player Ryan Murphy, the Netflix film, releasing on December 11, is a glossy, high-octane musical comedy starring Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Ariana DeBose and Jo Ellen Pellman.
Beguelin, who co-wrote both the stage musical and screenplay, is thrilled to see the project blossom. The Prom tells the story of a group of washed-out Broadway actors (Streep, Kidman, Corden and Rannells) who, looking for some good PR, head to a small town in Indiana to protest a school board that’s refusing to let a gay teen (Pellman) take her girlfriend (DeBose) to the prom. Hilarity, and pathos, ensue, as the has-beens try to teach the conservative town about tolerance while learning about themselves in the process, and the two young women at the heart of the controversy come to terms with who they are and their place in the world.
“It really was just, for me and [co-screenwriter] Bob Martin, about writing the screenplay,” says Beguelin. “Once the script was done, we went to set a few times and that was mind blowing because I’d never been on a movie set before.” As Beguelin adapted his stage script, Murphy would send him emails with directives—put the glamorous Streep on a bus, have Kidman say something hilarious, write a poignant scene with the two teen heroines—and expand the story for film. “It’s such a totally different medium, it allowed us to expand where we could go,” he says. “When you’re doing something on stage, you’re limited to how many set pieces you can have and suddenly we could be in cars, on buses, in the middle of Times Square, inside Sardi’s—it was really eye-opening and whenever you take something from stage to film the first thing they say is to open it up. One character we wanted in the show was Emma’s (Pellman) grandmother, but the cast was always too big. So it was great to have her and Barry’s (Corden) mother, as well. It’s really exciting to go to all these new places and add these new characters.”
All of the songs from the stage version of The Prom made it into the film, as well, which is a rarity for film adaptations. A new song was added for the closing credits, “Wear Your Crown,” featuring the female cast. “We were really surprised that every single song from the musical is in the movie, which is so rare,” says Beguelin. “We were just waiting to see what Ryan would want to cut. Some are shortened for time but they’re all in there.”
Beguelin also got to meet some of the stars on set. “It was surreal!” he exclaims. “We met Meryl, James, Nicole and Andrew. At one point Meryl touched my arm, and I have no idea what she was saying because I was freaking out that Meryl Streep was touching my arm!”
The Prom, with its hilarious scenes and catchy tunes, also has a strong, lovely message at its heart. “Right now, the world is so divided and there’s so much anger and hate out there,” says Beguelin. “It’s really a movie that’s about learning to listen to someone you disagree with and learning to love instead of hate.”
See The Prom on Netflix starting December 11.