Allie Hughes (right) and guitarist Thom Gill at the El Mocambo on Saturday, for her Prom Queen Dream.
Allie Hughes has already made a name for herself with her theatrically staged live shows that incorporate comedians, role-playing, and costumes into the experience, as she did at her last two shows, which were both wedding themed. She announced this past weekend’s Prom Queen Dream show with a video trailer paying homage to the film Carrie, and we knew we had to be there to see for ourselves if pyrokinesis or buckets of blood came into play—plus, she and her band put on a terrific show even without the frills. We squeezed into some old formal wear and made our way through the pouring rain to the El Mocambo, where many formally attired patrons had gathered.
10:28 PM: “Principal/Mayor” David Dineen-Porter addresses the “class of 2011” in their damp finery, reading a list of the announcements he’d like to have made over the morning PA. Among them: asking a student to say “Bloody Mary” three times and asking if Pet Sematary was real. He ends his address by introducing “a very talented boy” who we should all recognize from his appearances at school pride event “Outdoors Day”: the evening’s “Chad/Tommy Ross,” Gentleman Reg.
10:37 PM: Reg and his pals—Kelly McMichael on keys and Jon Hynes on guitar (and later, drums)—open with “To Some It Comes Easy.” Reg, with his curly mane of blonde hair, really does resemble the conflicted prom king in Carrie.
10:42 PM: There are plenty of attendees who got into the spirit, wearing dresses, jackets, and ties. The band’s nattily dressed, too: McMichael is wearing a glittering blue sequined frock. They’re currently playing “We Can’t Get It Back”.
Gentleman Reg played Allie’s elusive object of affection, “Chad,” modelled closely after “Tommy Douglas” in the film Carrie.
10:48 PM: “I can’t believe it’s prom already,” jokes Reg, with mock sincerity. “I’m going to be 20 soon!” (Truthfully, the rocker hasn’t aged noticeably in the eight years we’ve been watching him on stage.) He starts in on his cover of Stevie Nick’s “Wild Heart,” a song that dates back further than anyone in the room’s first high-school prom.
11:04 PM: The disco ball has started spinning as Reg and Co. start in on a slow-time cover of Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy,” and couples begin slow-dancing. Our photographer, Corbin Smith, spots at least one slow-dance makeout session in the middle of the crowd, but doesn’t shoot pictures (’cause that would be a little creepy).
11:38 PM: Principal Dineen-Porter is back to announce the winner of the night’s prom queen title. And quelle surprise—Ms. Allie Hughes is our prom queen! She takes the stage, beaming in a taffeta dress and tiara, followed by her six-piece backing band. “Thank you so much,” she gushes, “and welcome to my dream!” Everything tonight, she assures us, will go according to her desires—including having the dreamy “Chad” as prom king.
11:44 PM: Hughes is in fine form tonight; her occasional operatic flourishes reach to the back end of the Elmo’s bar. Her backing band is stellar, too; it boasts such local talents as violinist Randy Lee (a Bicycles alumni), and bassist Bram Gielen (who composed the Biggish Kids song cycle Hughes appeared in during SummerWorks last year).
Reg and Allie, having gifted each other with traditional prom adornments, show a supposedly united front to the crowd.
11:55 PM: “Chad” joins Allie onstage for a rousing rendition of her most clear-cut pop single, “Not the Stars.” The two hold hands and exchange a boutonnière and wrist corsage during their duet. It really does seem as if all Allie’s prom fantasies are coming true…
12:00 AM: …Until, perfectly timed at the stroke of midnight, Alex Tindal, in his formal sailor’s garb from the Feint of Hart cabaret series, rushes onstage and begins tongue wrestling with “Chad.” A shocked Hughes watches the two men exit the stage, and her fantasy spins wildly out of control. “NO!” she cries. “This isn’t supposed to happen—this is MY dream!” She launches into her lament “O Chad,” as her tiara flies into the crowd.
A dirty, dirty sailor (comedian Alex Tindal) jumps up on stage and seduces “Chad,” while Allie watches in disbelief.
12:11 AM: Allie plays her solo tune (just her and her synth), “Headmaster,” with McMichael and fellow backing vocalist Jessica Tollefsen (of Green Go) on either side for moral support, then uses her “Damaged Nail” to paint blood stripes, or tears, down her face, before launching into that particularly eccentric and bombastic number.
12:15 AM: Amid loud cheers for an encore, Hughes and her band return for an encore, playing a song that quite a few people in the crowd could have danced to at their prom: a cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”
12:17 AM: Hughes has good eyes! She spots a couple waving at her, a good 20 feet to the side of the stage, waves back, and points them out in a break in the song as her “fans from elementary school.”
A terrifically unhinged Hughes finds a way to pay homage to the film Carrie without drenching her dress in blood, by streaking her face with blood from her “Damaged Nail.”
12:20 AM: As her band files offstage again, Hughes urges the crowd, which is starting to thin out a bit, to stick around for her “favourite Christian cover band, Pop Salvation.”
12:39: AM: Principal Dineen-Porter is back one last time to introduce “the most Christian members of the faculty,” including “that guy who cleans up in the gym,” pointing at Tyler Kyte. In actuality, it’s cover band extraordinaire Dwayne Gretzky, who are members of Sweet Thing (plus a few guests), playing classic rock tunes like “Ballroom Blitz” and Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me.” For those prom attendees still in attendance (and the Elmo is still about half full), now’s when the real dancing begins.
Nick Rose of Sweet Thing/Dwayne Gretzky, who played “Chad” in Hughes’ wedding-themed show at the Drake Hotel in February, takes his turn at the mic for a classic rock tune in the closing act, “Christian cover band Pop Sensations.”
And so, Hughes’ Prom Queen Dream ends with a great amount of merriment and carousing. It’s still pouring outside, but the revellers inside the Elmo are warm and happy, and Hughes has definitely gained some new fans. After a wedding and a prom night, we’re curious indeed to see how she tops these with her next concept show.
Photos by Corbin Smith/Torontoist.
This post originally identified the guitarist in the top photo as Jordan Howard. In fact, the guitarist in the photo is Thom Gill, who was filling in for Howard. We regret the error.