THE PROM*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Alex
In Indiana, Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington) holds a PTA meeting where a vote is held to cancel the high school’s prom – because Emma Nolan (Jo Ellen Perlman), a lesbian student, wants to take another girl, and the conservative town finds that unacceptable. When the media asks why not just disinvite the one girl, Mrs. Greene notes there could be a legal problem in banning one student, so the whole prom must be cancelled.
Meanwhile, in New York City, the huge musical Eleanor!: The Eleanor Roosevelt Story has its opening night, starring two big broadway stars, Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep) and Barry Glickman (James Corden). The two of them, but especially Dee Dee, are self-absorbed and self-obsessed. At first, they believe the musical is going to be a hit, and sing “Changing Lives”, about how their work is so important that it changes lives. At the premiere party, their publicist Sheldon (Kevin Chamberlin) tells them that the New York Times wrote a scathing review, specifically saying how narcissistic and unlikeable they are. Sheldon says no one The musical is sure to close immediately.
The bartender at the premiere is Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells), an overserious Julliard-trained actor who had one sitcom role years ago who is now doing a low-rent tour of Godspell and taking service industry gigs. They also run into Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman), a Broadway performer who has been in the chorus for 20 years, and was hoping to go on in Chicago in the lead role of Roxie. When the producers passed her over again, she quit. The four of them drink and commiserate, and then Barry comes up with an idea: to get good press and to clear their images, they want to find a social cause to help with. Angie finds the story about Emma on Twitter. They see Principal Tom Hawkins (Keegan-Michael Key) tells the news media that he is determined to go to the state’s attorney to help Emma. They sing a reprise of “Changing Lives”, determined to help the girl and also, for Barry and Dee Dee, improve their reputations. They decide to join Trent’s tour to go to Indiana.
In Indiana, Emma is being constantly bullied because the other students blame her for the prom being cancelled. Of the popular kids, only Alyssa Greene (Ariana DeBose), Mrs. Greene’s daughter, is kind to her. She sings “Just Breathe”, about how it sucks to be gay in Indiana, and that someday it will be better, but for now all she can do is breathe and try to survive. The other kids want to know who her date is, but she says it’s someone new in town. Hawkins tells Emma he has reached the state’s attorney and believes they have a shot at winning. He makes it clear he supports her. On the bus to Indiana, Dee Dee is excited that this good press could get her her third Tony Award. Barry tells her how badly he needs a win, to prove to everyone who doubted him that he could do something important.
At the PTA meeting, Hawkins tells everyone that the state’s attorney says they should hold an inclusive prom, which Mrs. Greene rejects. Alyssa tries to speak in favor of holding the prom, but her mother shuts her down, and says the government is taking away their freedom. Suddenly Barry, Dee Dee, Angie, Trent, Sheldon and the Godspell cast enter with protest signs, insisting they are going to hold a rally and support Emma. barge in with protest signs to support Emma. Dee Dee sings “It’s Not About Me”, claiming to be there to help Emma but talking about what a good person she is, insulting the townspeople, and making it all about herself and how heroic she is. The town is flabbergasted, but Hawkins is a huge fan of Dee Dee and is starstruck. He tells Dee Dee that he’s a big fan, which delights her. His favorite song was from her first Broadway show called “The Lady’s Improving”. He asks the actors to back off the Emma situation, afraid it’s going to hurt their chances.
Emma goes and meets Alyssa under the bleachers – it turns out Alyssa is Emma’s secret girlfriend. Their plan is to make their relationship official at the prom. They since “Dance With You”, about how they don’t want to make a statement, they just want to be able to go to prom and have their night together. Meanwhile, the actors check into a hotel and Dee Dee and Barry are horrified by how the hotel does not meet their high standards. Trent was supposed to have a song written for them by Sondheim but couldn’t get it, so he writes his own song for them to perform at the rally to support Emma. Sheldon finds them a venue with a huge crowd for them to perform at – halftime at a monster truck rally. They, along with the Godspell cast, perform “The Acceptance Song”, a horribly cheesy song that includes lines about “making rainbow dreams come true”. It gets boos from the crowd.
The actors are disappointed, but Hawkins comes to them and tells them the prom is back on. The actors are thrilled, thinking their mission is a success and their images will be improved. Everyone goes to celebrate. Thrilled, Barry wants to help the clueless Emma pick out something to wear to prom. Dee Dee waits behind and Hawkins tells her how Emma’s parents threw her out of her house, to Dee Dee’s horror. Dee Dee asks Tom if there’s somewhere to get dinner, and he brings her to an Applebee’s, which she’s never heard of. Meanwhile, all of the high school kids are singing “You Happened”, asking each other to prom in big public promposals. Meanwhile, Emma and Alyssa have to do it in private… but some of the popular girls spy it.
At Applebee’s, Mrs. Greene runs in to Dee Dee and tells her she should stick to acting instead of activism. Dee Dee is concerned she made things worse. The two have a flirtation, both single – Dee Dee after a famous divorce – and Hawkins sings “We Look to You”, explaining how he loves the theatre as an escape, and regular people look to artists like her for escapism and joy. Emma lives with her grandmother Bea (Mary Kay Place), and Barry tells Emma and Bea about how he also never had a chance to go to his prom. He wanted to wear a silver tux but was too scared when he saw the boy he liked with a date. He sings “Tonight Belongs to You” as he helps Emma get ready for prom night, getting her stuff to wear and helping her find some confidence. Meanwhile, the high school kids sing that “tonight belongs to us” as they head to the prom. Alyssa tries to tell her about Emma but Mrs. Greene says she’s taken care of things – Alyssa isn’t sure what she means.
Barry and the other actors drop Emma off at the prom, all happy for her. She asks Barry to walk her in, nervous – he’s happy to do so. As they enter, they realize that the gym is empty. Mr. Hawkins is inside trying to figure out what’s going on. Mrs. Greene leads Alyssa into the prom – the PTA put on another private prom across town but let the school have the prom just for Emma, as required by the state attorney, technically following their orders but tricking Emma. Emma sings “tonight belonged to them”. She calls Alyssa, who swears she didn’t know. Emma tells her to come meet her and Alyssa says she can’t, her mother is there. Emma hangs up on her, heartbroken and humiliated. She runs out of the gym in tears and Angie goes after her. Hawkins hears Dee Dee talking with Sheldon about their “PR problem” and realizes why she came and leaves, disgusted.
Mrs. Greene has a press conference where she says they held a separate prom to protect Emma. Angie comforts Emma and tells her she isn’t alone – the whole group of actors goes to Emma’s house. Dee Dee thinks they’ve made things worse and that they should leave, but the others refuse. Barry tells Emma she needs to step up and take the story wide and go public. They want Dee Dee to reach out to her talk show host ex-husband, but she knows he will want the Hamptons house and refuses. Sheldon tries to find another way to get her on TV, but Emma says she can’t go on TV and talk about this, it’s too painful. Angie stays with her and tells her about in the original production of Chicago Bob Fosse demanded the lead actress give some Zazz and she found it within – she sings “Zazz” telling Emma how to reach within and find her courage to fight back, and Emma eventually joins in the singing and dancing.
Barry and Dee Dee watch romcoms and Dee Dee talks about how her husband cheated on her and how painful her divorce was. She supported him during the early years of their marriage and now she’s down and out and he has a hit TV show. Barry encourages Dee Dee to go to Hawkins. Dee Dee in turn encourages him to resolve his issues with his parents, who he hasn’t spoken to since he come out to them and they told him they were going to take him to conversion therapy. He is still angry and hurt and does not want to go see them. Dee Dee goes to Hawkins’s office, where he wants nothing to do with her. To win him over, Dee Dee sings “The Lady’s Improving”, a song which happens to be about a woman asking for a second chance. Hawkins tells her she needs to put other people’s interests before her own. Dee Dee says she needs to unlearn her patterns and needs a teacher to help her. Hawkins is charmed and takes her to lunch.
Emma meets with Alyssa and tells her how betrayed and hurt she was by her. Alyssa sings “Alyssa Greene”, explaining how her mother is constantly demanding she be perfect and flawless and how trapped she feels – and that Mrs. Greene thinks if Alyssa is perfect her father might come back. Emma breaks up with Alyssa, not being able to accept her betrayal. Meanwhile, Trent goes to the mall and finds many of the popular kids and asks why they hate gay people. The kids use the bible as their excuse, and Trent sings “Love Thy Neighbor”, explaining how they cherry-pick which rules in the bible they follow and pointing out their massive hypocrisies. Dee Dee tells the other actors that she’s booked Emma on her ex-husband’s talk show – she gave up the Hamptons house, putting someone else’s interests ahead of her own.
They tell Emma, who thanks them but says she won’t go on TV, enraging Dee Dee. Emma explains to Barry that she has another plan, and that they’re going to throw a prom for everyone. She tells Barry about her breakup and asks Barry to be her date. Since he never went to his prom he’s deeply touched and excited, and sings “Barry is Going to Prom”. He wears a silver tux like he always wanted and in a fantasy sequence dances with his younger self. He decides to call his mother for the first time in years but hangs up. Meanwhile, Emma does a livestream on the internet telling her story and singing a song she wrote called “Unruly Heart” about how badly she wanted to be accepted for who she was and how she was hiding, but now she’s proud of who she is and isn’t going to hide. The video goes viral, and LGBT kids all over, watch the video and are touched and feel less alone and respond with their own stories.
Hawkins tells the actors there isn’t any money left for another prom since they already technically put on a prom. Barry wants the actors to pay for it, and they all chip in what little they have except for Dee Dee. She says she already gave a house, but Barry eventually convinces her and she reluctantly gives over her American Express black card and the prom is financed. After, Dee Dee tells Barry she called her mother, Vera (Tracey Ullman), who arrives and apologizes for how she behaved. She cries and tells him how wrong she was. She admits his father has not come around and asks for forgiveness. He tells her he’s missed her and they cry and hug. The actors help set up the gym for the prom, and Barry tells Emma the truth about why they came originally, to get their bad press turned around. Emma is fine with it, having grown fond of them all.
Mrs. Greene storms in, angry and ready to shut the prom down. The popular kids enter and apologize to Emma for the way they’ve treated her. They thank Trent for teaching them and they ask him to be their new drama teacher, which Hawkins approves. Mrs. Greene is still furious, and Alyssa finally steps in and tells Emma how she loves her, and Emma tells her she loves her too. Mrs. Greene tells Alyssa she doesn’t want her to have a hard life and refuses to accept her or say anything supportive of her, just saying they can talk about it later. At the prom, Alyssa and Emma are finally able to dance together as the kids from all over the state arrive. Emma leads everyone in singing “It’s Time to Dance” – saying she wants to show everyone how the world could one day be. Angie finds out that she’s finally getting the part of Roxie and will be taking a red-eye the next day. Emma tells Barry he’ll be the queen of the prom. Kids from all over come to the prom. Mrs. Greene arrives and tells Alyssa that she matters to her more than anything else and the crowd cheers. Hawkins kisses Dee Dee. Dee Dee looks at what they’ve done and asks Barry “if this is what not failing feels like”. Everyone dances and Emma and Alyssa share a kiss.
In a conservative Indiana town, the PTA cancels the prom because Emma (Jo Ellen Perlman), a lesbian student, wants to take a girl to the prom. After their show flops and they have bad press, Broadway actors Dee Dee (Meryl Streep) and Barry (James Corden) decide to go to Indiana to help her in the hopes of fixing their images. They bring along Trent (Andrew Rannells) and Angie (Nicole Kidman), other down on their luck actors. Emma is secretly dating Alyssa (Ariana DeBose) the daughter of the head of the PTA Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington). The school is eventually forced to hold a prom, but the PTA secretly throws a private prom for all the other kids and Emma arrives at the school to find herself alone. She is humiliated, but the actors help her find strength and she sings a song about her experience that goes viral. Eventually, the actors help to throw an inclusive prom. Dee Dee begins dating the school Principal Mr. Hawkins (Keegan-Michael Key), Barry reconciles with his mother who was not okay with him being gay, Angie finally gets a lead part, and Trent decides to become the drama teacher. Alyssa comes out to her mother who eventually accepts her, and the film ends at the joyous all-inclusive prom.