White Rock resident Kevin Khonje is living a dream this summer. The longtime fan of Broadway musicals will soon be singing his heart out in The Prom. It’s one of two Theatre Under the Stars productions in coming to Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl this month.
“Nerves are definitely a big thing,” Khonje tells Pancouver over Zoom. “I’ve never performed. I’ve never been on-stage before!”
He didn’t even take drama in high school. But here’s the thing—Khonje can really sing.
The bass-baritone has had plenty of practice. Much of it took place in the car, of all places. He fondly recalls going on long road trips with his daughter, who’s now 12, where they would focus on a musical book. Then they would spend hours singing through the musical from start to finish.
Khonje loved doing this so much that he decided to step outside of his comfort zone in 2019 and join the North Vancouver–based Burstin’ With Broadway choir. At the time, he was living in Abbotsford. However, that didn’t dissuade him from making a weekly trek to the North Shore.
“It’s a non-audition choir,” Khonje says. “Basically, you go over there Tuesdays and just sing Broadway songs—which sounded pretty much like the best type of activity that I could envision.”
The Prom inspired by real events
The choir’s artistic director at the time, Dominique Hogan, selected him to perform a couple of solos. Then the assistant director, Arielle Ballance, encouraged Khonje to to audition for the role of Tom Hawkins for Theatre Under the Stars. Hawkins is a small-town Indiana principal who serves as the moral compass in The Prom.
“He’s just an ordinary guy but he’s a huge Broadway fan,” Khonje says. “He has such appreciation and love for the artform.”
Khonje adds that he will be eternally grateful to the director, Tracey Power, for giving him this opportunity. Power is also choreographing The Prom, which has lyrics by Chad Beguilin and music by Matthew Sklar. The book is by Beguilin and Bob Martin.
“I get to sing with an orchestra and people are going to come in and see that in droves,” Khonje says. “I get to do that multiple nights. It literally is a dream come true.”
The original 2018 show and 2020 film were inspired by a controversy in Mississippi in 2010. It revolved around high school senior who was banned from bringing her girlfriend to the prom, creating a national uproar.
Blown away by a talented cast
In The Prom, four Broadway actors try to help the student named Emma, who’s played by Anna Pontin. The antagonist, Mrs. Greene, is played by Amy Gartner.
“She spends a very decent chunk of the play yelling at me, directly, in my face. Very close,” Khonje says. “And I have the most distinct admiration for her—because she says awful things as a character but I know she’s one of the sweetest, nicest people that I’ve ever met. Super supportive. All the cast has been over the moon, incredibly supportive.”
In fact, Khonje says that he’s been blown away by the talent that he’s witnessing in rehearsals. It’s not only their acting that’s impressed him; it’s also their singing and dancing skills. To his amazement, he has the best seat in the house, often getting to watch them perform from just three feet away on-stage.
“I’ve been graced with this opportunity and I don’t want to let anyone else down,” Khonje says. “I want to make sure that I go out and do my part to make sure that this show is as spectacular as I see it.”
Theatre Under the Stars presents The Prom and Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical from July 6 to August 26 at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park. For tickets and showtimes, visit tuts.ca. TUTS will host its fifth annual Pride Night with The Prom on July 31. The Prom Dress-up Night will be on August 10. Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia.