By MARK BLANKENSHIP
In one of the most unexpected endorsements of the theatrical season, Norway itself has celebrated The Prom.
You read that correctly. Earlier this month, the Twitter account of the official Norwegian delegation to the United Nations congratulated the show for “bringing the important message of love and tolerance regardless of background and sexual orientation to the stage.”
For Dori Berinstein, one of The Prom’s lead producers, the enthusiastic Scandinavian response was both a welcome embrace and a total surprise. “It’s beyond our wildest dreams that a country is on board with the story we’re trying to tell,” she says. “For Norway – it sounds so funny to say that! – but for Norway to get the message we’re sending is just so thrilling and fulfilling.”
The Norwegians were at a performance presented by The Prom and fashion designer Kenneth Cole. That special evening benefitted the UN Foundation in support of UN Free & Equal – a global public information campaign of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to promote the fair and equal rights of LGBTQI+ people globally.
Kenneth Cole has also been an ardent supporter of the show, which follows Broadway actors who stage a protest after a small town refuses to let openly lesbian teenagers attend their high school dance. Along with speaking on a post-show panel for the UN event, he’s designed rainbow-bedecked sneakers that appear in the production and aProm-themed t-shirt that’s for sale on the show’s merchandise website and at his own Voice Shop.
“We’re proud to partner with The Prom,” Cole says. “Not just because it is an extraordinary theatrical production, but also because of the shared values it portrays and the important story of inclusion and acceptance that it brings to life. “
Berinstein is happy to be in league with Cole, whom she calls “an extraordinary designer and an important activist,” and she’s also pleased that The Prom, which is at the Longacre Theatre, is part of the theater’s legacy of social awareness. “Broadway has a history of making audiences consider issues they may not have at the front of their minds,” she says. “We’ve joined many shows that have come before that have maybe changed the way people see the world.”
It matters, too, that the show reaches people with crowd-pleasing humor and the high-fashion appeal of a partner like Kenneth Cole. These touches signal to everyone in the audience – whether they’re Norwegian or not – that there’s room for them in the story. “It makes everyone feel comfortable walking in the door,” Berinstein says. “If we accomplish that, then nothing will be more satisfying.”