Arts

Canada's most famous embattled prom queen is getting the musical treatment

Fourteen years after Marc Hall fought to bring his boyfriend to the prom, their story is hitting the stage.

Fourteen years after Marc Hall fought to bring his boyfriend to the prom, their story is hitting the stage

Alessandro Costantini as Marc Hall. ( Tafari Anthony)

Marc Hall insists the entire thing started out very innocently. In 2002, his Durham, Ontario school was gearing up for its annual graduation prom, and Hall was one of those intent on celebrating. The catch was, he intended to bring his boyfriend.

All hell broke loose when the Catholic school board told him his boyfriend would not be permitted at the prom. Hall's parents asked to meet with the school officials, but they refused. So Hall went public. A website was created that told his story. A radio station called up to interview Hall, who was then only 17, and the story then became a media sensation.

"The next three days at school I was doing media scrums on my breaks," he recalls. "If you went to the front of the school, all you could see were reporters running around, TV cameras and some satellite vans. It went national and international very quickly."

The case went to court, where it was ruled the school board was being discriminatory and must allow Hall to bring his date to the prom.

The messages are all there: stand up for yourself, fight against discrimination and know that you will find support somewhere.- Marc Hall

The David-and-Goliath story about a young gay man overcoming adversity was an obvious story begging to be told: a documentary, Prom Fight: The Marc Hall Story, followed, as did Prom Queen, a 2004 made-for-TV movie directed by John L'Ecuyer that proved a ratings hit.

Several years ago, Hall was contacted by the creators of the Prom Queen movie, who suggested they wanted to turn it into a stage musical. And now that's become a reality: premiering at Montreal's Segal Centre of Performing Arts this weekend and running through November, Prom Queen: The Musical stars Alessandro Constantini as Hall, with lyrics by Akiva Romer-Segal and music by Colleen Dauncey.

"That was just a completely surreal feeling," says Hall. "I was so surprised I think my initial reaction was to laugh. I was thrilled at the possibility — and now it's actually happening."

Hall, who is now 32 and works as a research associate at the University of Calgary, says the show is everything he had hoped it would be. "I saw the workshop version in 2014 and thought it was brilliant — the songs are catchy and the messages are all there: stand up for yourself, fight against discrimination and know that you will find support somewhere. There are many parts of the musical that bring me back to 2002, points where I get very emotional with having all the memories, good and bad, come back to me. It's just incredible."

Marc Hall today. (Amy McCarthy)

And Hall concedes that, for a 17-year-old kid who was still figuring things out, it was a challenging time. "It was very weird. It's not like I set out to be some poster child for LGBT rights. Don't get me wrong — I'm very happy that it all happened and that I was able to take on these challenges, so that hopefully others don't have to go through it. But at the time I was shy, awkward and not entirely confident with who I was."

Looking back, Hall is ultimately very proud.

"It's funny because to this day it's incredible to think of all the things that happened. I am proud that I won the injunction, and proud that I did that at 17. I think back now and wonder how the heck did I even do all that. My original intention was to be able to take my boyfriend to the prom. But it quickly grew into more than that. I realized that I was fighting for a community. And I really wanted to prevent this from happening to someone else."

Prom Queen: The Musical. Book by Kent Staines. Directed by Marcia Kash. October 27-November 20. Segal Centre for Performing Arts, Montreal. www.segalcentre.org​

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