Eighteen years ago, Marc Hall was a high school student who wanted to take his boyfriend to prom.
The two went to a Catholic school in Oshawa, Ontario, where the administration refused to allow two boys to attend the event as a couple. They said the pair would set “a bad example” for their classmates. Hall took his case before the Ontario Superior Court and won the right to attend prom with the date of his choosing, mere hours before the event was set to start.
Now, nearly two decades later, an Alberta theater company is adapting Hall’s story for the stage in a musical slated for a month-long run at the Max Bell Theatre in Calgary.
The musical is called The Louder We Get (formerly produced as Prom Queen under Sheridan College’s Canadian Musical Theatre Program). As municipalities across Alberta and beyond debate conversion therapy bans and negotiate LGBTQ-friendly educational curricula, the story’s themes remain as relevant as ever, even with the amount of change that has taken place since 2002.
Theatre Calgary’s production stars New York’s Evan Kinnane as Marc Hall. To prepare him for the role, the show’s producer Mary Young Leckie got the pair in touch, and the original Marc Hall — who grew up to be a scientist and an atheist — says he approves of both the musical medium and its young star as vehicles for telling his story:
Trust me, there was no dancing in my bedroom or singing in the shower because I can’t sing or dance to save my life, but it is a beautiful, fun way to tell the story. Watching Evan play me really takes me back to 2002. He’s not impersonating me but he’s done an amazing job of capturing me at that point in my life. I can totally see that seventeen-year-old me in him.
But the story has grown to be about much more than just one teenager who wanted to take his boyfriend to prom. Marc Hall hopes the show can send a message of hope to all teenagers, especially gay ones who might not be living in an accepting environment:
“Teens need to know that they can get help if they are struggling with issues related to their sexuality, that they can find other LGBT people, and that they are not alone… Things really do get better… The older you get and the more people you meet, the more you realize things aren’t so bad and lots of people are accepting. There are plenty of others who will understand you.”
Certainly these themes have spoken to Mary Young Leckie over the years: She also produced a TV movie about Marc Hall’s story. She wanted to keep working with the same material in a new medium, calling it “a real call to arms” for social activism around LGBTQ rights.
Director Lonny Price says the musical is about young people standing up against injustice and fighting to change the system and end discrimination:
[This story] is about youth empowerment. It’s about young people taking their fate into their hands when they see that old white men have failed them. This is a very hot topic in North America these days. Marc’s initial fight helped a lot of kids deal with their own pain and I feel the musical will do the same for this generation of young people and their parents.
The title is a reference to that very phenomenon, drawn from one of the show’s inspiring lyrics (written by Akiva Romer-Segal and Colleen Dauncey):
The more they try to silence us, the louder we get. They haven’t heard the last of us yet.