Aug. 23, 2019

Musical based on UCalgary staffer's prom comes to Calgary in 2020

The Louder We Get, about Nursing's Marc Hall's fight to take his boyfriend to his high school prom, premieres at Theatre Calgary in January
Marc Hall addresses audience after Prom Queen debuts at Segal Centre, Montreal in 2016
Marc Hall addresses audience after Prom Queen debuts at Segal Centre, Montreal in 2016

Get ready, Calgary: The Louder We Get (formerly Prom Queen: The Musical) is on its way to Theatre Calgary in late January 2020. The musical, based on UCalgary Nursing’s Marc Hall and his fight to take his boyfriend to his high school prom 17 years ago (see UToday, August 2016), continues to provoke debate around equal rights and sexual orientation, but also contains other themes like religion, friendship and community.

A lot has happened in the three years since the musical premiered in Montreal. Following a production at Stagedoor Manor, a summer camp for high school theatre students in upstate New York, The Louder We Get’s creative team submitted an application to the National Alliance of Musical Theatre (NAMT) in New York. NAMT’s mission is to advance musical theatre by nurturing the creation, development and production of new shows, and being selected is usually the beginning of big things for any musical.

“When you get to NAMT, it’s a huge deal,” explains Hall, mentioning that the acclaimed Broadway play Come From Away, based on the true story of 7,000 stranded passengers in Newfoundland on 9/11, was a selection in 2013. Of the 280 applications made in 2017, Prom Queen was one of the winning eight. One act was workshopped in November, featuring well-known stage actors (including Major Attaway, who plays the Genie in Broadway’s Aladdin, and Chilina Kennedy, who plays Carole King in Beautiful), and strategically chosen songs.

“From NAMT, the connections just got significantly greater,” says Hall, adding that the artistic director from The Other Palace, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s inventive theatre in London, had seen the musical and wanted to workshop it in the U.K.

“Naturally, I wanted to go to London, but it didn’t make sense for such a short time. The night of the performance I got a call from the producer saying that Andrew Lloyd Webber had attended. There I was at home, just doing my dishes haha: I was blown away.”

The next stop for Prom Queen was as the 2018 selection for The High School Project, a program through the Grand Theatre in London, Ont. where students perform and work stage plays, mentored by theatre professionals. This is where a part of Hall’s history seemed to repeat itself. When the public and Catholic school boards, who provide some funding for The High School Project, learned of the content of Prom Queen, they withdrew support.

“It was very reminiscent of 2002 and my actual prom,” says Hall. “The boards’ decision was leaked to the media and there was this immediate backlash: Suddenly my email, my phone, my Facebook was blowing up. It was so intense.” The community rallied around the production, creating a GoFundMe page that eclipsed the school board funding, and generated enough controversy that the public school board reinstated its contribution. The play ran in September 2018 to a sell-out crowd.

“It was super emotional because it was high school kids and there was that connection,” Hall comments. “My parents were there, one of my lawyers I spent about three hours signing autographs and talking about coming out.

“That’s why I love the musical so much; people contact me asking for direction and tell me their stories and that’s what it’s all about for me.”

Hall continues by adding that the experience at The Grand was the impetus for changing the name to The Louder We Get. “That is a song in the first act and people would hashtag that phrase. So after last fall, we realized that this was no longer just about prom as an event, but a movement and how, in times of real conflict and misunderstanding, communities mobilize. Even though prom was 17 years ago, the message of standing up for what you believe is still totally relevant.”

Hall is not sure what lies ahead for the musical, but is excited that Theatre Calgary is bringing it to the city. “The Louder We Get will be the first LGBTQ musical at Theatre Calgary in 20 years and it fits in with (artistic director) Stafford Arima’s vision to feature new, fun and Canadian productions. And as a huge regional theatre, this can only push us forward to, hopefully, Broadway.”

(There is a further UCalgary connection with The Louder We Get: music was composed by BComm alum ['08] Colleen Dauncey with lyrics written by Akiva Romer Segal, son of Eliezer Segal, Professor Emeritus, Classics and Religion.)

The Louder We Get runs from Jan. 28 to Feb. 22, 2020. Tickets are on sale now.

UCalgary Nursing's Marc Hall

UCalgary Nursing's Marc Hall

Amy Kelly