“The Prom” Highlights Broadway Veterans

Vicki Lewis

By Mary Ann Bourbeau

DEAL PARK – It’s prom season, and everyone is invited!

The first professional production of the Tony-nominated musical “The Prom” is coming to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center May 5 – 21. Leading the cast are Broadway veterans Vicki Lewis and John Scherer, with direction by actor/director Todd Buonopane (Broadway’s “Spelling Bee,” “Grease,” “Chicago”).

Lewis, best known for her roles in the television series’ “NewsRadio” and “Three Sisters,” takes on the part of Dee Dee Allen, a famous actress who is now past her prime. Lewis is no stranger to the stage. She starred on Broadway in “Damn Yankees,” “Chicago” and most recently, “Anastasia.” Scherer, who appeared in “By Jeeves” and “Sunset Boulevard,” plays Barry Glickman, a middle-aged, self-involved gay man who, sadly, never went to his own prom.

Dee Dee and Barry’s latest Broadway show, “Eleanor! The Eleanor Roosevelt Story,” closed on opening night because the actors were too self-absorbed and narcissistic to understand their characters. They decide to take on a cause in order to appear selfless and learn of a small town in Indiana that banned a student from attending prom because she wanted to bring her girlfriend.

“I’ve been around a lot of people like Dee Dee and Barry, who lose complete touch with reality when the roles suddenly stop coming,” said Lewis. “They’re desperate and trying to keep appearances up.”

Lewis jumped at the chance to work with Scherer again. The two have starred together in many shows, including “Gypsy,” “Anything Goes” and “Young Frankenstein.”

“John is one of my best friends,” said Lewis. “He makes me laugh harder than anyone. He’s astoundingly talented. He was born to play this part.”

Lewis has a long line of television credits, including NBC’s “NewsRadio” and “Three Sisters;” guest appearances on “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and films “MouseHunt,” “Godzilla” and “Pushing Tin.” She also has a successful voiceover career. She and her husband, sound designer Philip G. Allen, created the voiceover department at the University of Southern California, where she taught voice and he continues to teach sound design.

“We’re really proud of it,” she said.

It was her husband who, in 2018, suggested that Lewis return to her stage roots.

“He said it puts a skip in my step,” she said. “I’m never happier than when I get to do theater, especially with people I love.”

John Scherer

Scherer says he knew since age 11 that he wanted to be a stage actor. His mother saw a notice that a theater near their home in Buffalo, New York, was having auditions for “Peter Pan” starring Bonnie Franklin.

“I got cast as Slightly Soiled, the dirty Lost Boy,” he said. “When I found out I was going to make $10 a performance I was thrilled! That’s $80 a week – for a sixth grader that was a lot of money! I fell in love with the theater and felt like I found a place where I belonged.”

Scherer is excited to be working with Lewis once again.

“She’s a great comedian and singer, of course, but also a first-rate dramatic actress,” he said. “I jumped at the chance to work with her again.”

“The Prom’s” Barry Glickman is something of a dream role for Scherer.

“He’s vain to the point of ridiculous,” he said. “He’s hilarious, pithy, sometimes bitchy, but ultimately, he has a heart of gold, which I think surprises even himself. That’s a fun journey to play.”

The company includes New York theater actors Emily McNamara, Richard E. Waits and Matt Hill. Lillian Belle Doll and Emily Pellecchia play the couple at the center of the controversy. The ensemble includes Kyle Javon Blocker, Christina Claire, Christie Dabreau, Markos Eugenis, Danny Feldman, Joshua Kring, Sealth Grover, Jillian Ann Lee, Amanda Leigh Lupacchino, Laura Renee Mehl, Lauren Rathbun, Quincy Southerland, Alexandra Tarsinov, Matt Walsh, Grace Wolf, Nikki Yarnell and Hunter Yocom. 

“Our young cast members are so much fun to work with,” said Scherer. “They’re all so talented, hard-working, sweet and kind. Many of them are still in college, and how they have the energy to be in school and work on this show is beyond me.”

“The Prom” is choreographed by Brooke Engen (“Hairspray,” the film) with music direction by Michael Gilch. The creative team includes lighting designer Cameron Filepas, scenic designer Fred Sorrentino, costume designer Miranda Graves, sound designer Matt Feeney, prop designer Susan Bloir, wig designer Jason Hayes, assistant choreographer Lindsay Jorgensen, production stage manager Kellian Frank, company manager Nate Riccio and producer Andrew DePrisco.

“I love ‘The Prom’ because it is a traditional musical comedy with a great message of inclusiveness and love,” said Scherer. “It’s hilarious, joyful and uplifting. As an audience member, I go to the theater to have an emotional experience and ‘The Prom’ offers that in droves.”

The Axelrod Performing Arts Center is located at 100 Grant Ave., Deal Park. Tickets are $32 to $65 and are available at 732-531-9106, ext. 14 or axelrodartscenter.com.

The article originally appeared in the April 27 – May 3, 2023 print edition of The Two River Times.