Broadway hit movie on view at White Plains Performing Arts Center

  • “The Prom” is a hometown first for its star, Janine LaManna de Pelham, a veteran Broadway actress.

The White Plains Performing Arts Center kicks off its 20th anniversary season with what has become its daily bread: the regional premiere of a hit Broadway musical that is a hit with local audiences.

The show marks the hometown debut for its star, Pelham’s Janine LaManna, a veteran Broadway actress whose credits include starring roles in “Seussical,” for which she was a Drama Desk Award nominee, as well as “Sweet Charity.” and “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

LaManna has the lead role of Dee Dee Allen, a narcissistic Broadway actress whose career has gone off the rails. The plot of “The Prom’s” revolves around the efforts of Dee Dee and three other struggling Broadway stars to restore their reputations by rescuing an Indiana teenager who has been banned from bringing his girlfriend at his high school prom.

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“She’s very much the stereotypical Broadway actress in a musical theater sense,” LaManna recently said of Dee Dee. “She has a really lovely arc in which she finds herself inundated by her stardom, her own fame and her own mystique.”

Janine LaManna in "Prom." The regional production of the Broadway hit is now at the White Plains Performing Arts Center.

Dee Dee “goes for a wild ride during the show, thinking she’s doing something good for someone else, but she ends up learning a lot about herself and how to navigate this uncharted territory in her life as a human being that’s not necessarily as focused on being a celebrity,” LaManna adds. “There’s a journey out there for her, and she’s got to be likable at some point. narcissistic the entire show and never learned anything, so we probably wouldn’t like it at all.

LaManna dug into the show’s book to put her own stamp on a role originated on Broadway in 2018 by Beth Leavel and played by Meryl Streep in Netflix’s 2020 version.

Janine LaManna, originally from Pelham, is a Broadway veteran who starred in "seustic," "Sweet Charity," and more.

“I’m definitely not Beth or Meryl, I don’t have the clout they have in my career so I’m not going to put this on the table like they did,” she said. “But I’ll bring something else to it, which is me and all my theater experiences and the times when I was a celebrity and loved it.”

It’s no coincidence that “The Prom” was selected to open the nonprofit theater season. The show, which is inspired by real events that took place in Mississippi in 2010, is presented during LGBTQ+ History Month.

“Even though the show was written and on Broadway a few years ago, the story of the teenager wanting to go to her prom with her date, you’d think, OK, we’ve come a long way from there, and now there’s so much diversity and inclusion in our schools that maybe it wouldn’t be an issue,” said LaManna, who is married with two children. “But I think there’s still has minds to enlighten on the subject. I think it’s always a hot topic for teenagers trying to find their place in the world.

WPPAC executive producer Stephen Ferri said “The Prom” “has a wonderful message that can be enjoyed by anyone, I would say, because the universal message of love is love.”

The cast of

Broadway in your garden

WPPAC’s proximity to Broadway is both a benefit and a challenge, said Ferri, who previously served as the theater’s musical director.

“One of the benefits of being so close to New York is that the level of talent we can get on our stage is really awesome because you get the same artists, designers and musicians on Broadway that you do on Broadway. our theatre,” Ferri said. “But the challenge – and I think it’s a big challenge because it allows us to raise the bar – is we have to be able to convince a client that ‘Come to White Plains and See quality entertainment on Broadway and you don’t have to go to town.”

Earlier in its two-decade history, the theater produced a season that mixed both musicals and plays like “August Osage County” and “Lend Me a Tenor” before moving into its current slot: comedies. musicals directed and designed by professionals featuring unions and non-unions. actors from Broadway, national tours and regional theaters, with live orchestral accompaniment.

“He was really trying to focus on what we’re good at and what we found audiences really wanted,” said Ferri, who selects the center’s programming with WPPAC staff. Its 20th season continues with “Jersey Boys” this winter and “Miss Saigon” in the spring. The theater also presents concerts, organizes a summer theater camp and rents the hall to organizations such as dance schools.

As is the case with Broadway itself, WPPAC is still recovering from the pandemic-induced shutdown, but Ferri said viewership numbers are slowly but steadily increasing. And customer feedback made one thing clear: “Nothing is going to take away the feeling of live theater.”

Celebrating 20 years is a milestone for any company, but it’s especially impressive for a theater like WPPAC, Ferri added.

“For an arts organization, especially so close to Broadway, to have been able to last through so much,” he said. “They lasted through a recession, they lasted through COVID. I think the fact that the theater is there shows its importance in a community like Westchester and the surrounding area,” he said.

If you are going to

What: “Prom”

When: Shows until October 23

Where: White Plains Center for the Performing Arts, 11 City Place, White Plains

Tickets: $45 to $62.

After: For tickets, schedules and more, go to wppac.com/shows/the-prom/

WPPAC: 20 years of reminders

  • Created in November 2003 with Valerie Harper’s one woman show, Everything under the sky
  • Produced 63 major productions and 15 regional premieres
  • Production of 94 student productions
  • Presented 842 live performances with over 337,336 people in attendance (as of August 2022)
  • Three-quarters of the theater’s shows are self-produced; the rest are rentals to outside organizations.
  • Visit www.wppac.com for tickets and information.

Alfonso E. Cramer