Reel Dad: Musicals to watch after watching 'The Prom' on Netflix

Australian singer and actress Olivia Newton-John and American actor John Travolta as they appear in the Paramount film

Australian singer and actress Olivia Newton-John and American actor John Travolta as they appear in the Paramount film “Grease” in 1978.

Paramount Pictures / Getty Images

“The Prom” celebrates the grand tradition of musical comedy on film. And while director Ryan Murphy creates his own world for his all-star cast, he draws upon marvelous inspiration from the Hollywood archive. Take a look at some of the movies Murphy honors with his new musical delight.

Hairspray (2007)

This adaptation of the Broadway musical hit brims with the excitement of teenagers expressing joy and sorrow through song and dance. Much like “The Prom,” this film uses an exaggerated visual aesthetic to create its own sense of time and place. And the performances - led by John Travolta and Michelle Pfeiffer - become perfectly pitch for the tunes and fun.

Bye, Bye, Birdie (1963)

No one has as much fun on a musical screen as Ann-Margret in this delightful translation of the Broadway musical hit about the early days of rock and roll. With Dick Van Dyke sublime as a songwriter searching for a hit, the film overflows with hit tunes, including “Put on a Happy Face” and “I’ve Got a Lot of Livin’ to Do” and Ann-Margret is ideal.

Grease (1978)

While the actors - including John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and Stockard Channing are more than a bit beyond their high school years, they make up for the age difference with their joy in performing the hit songs from this Broadway musical. Channing, especially, hits all the right notes as a young woman who dares to make unconventional choices.

Swing Time (1936)

This ultimate musical in the series of films starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers defines the joy of song and dance on the big screen. Astaire and Rogers set a standard for how any dancing couple can integrate their steps in a way that makes us feel as if they float on air. That breathless quality inspires Murphy to create a similar impression in “The Prom.”

The Bandwagon (1953)

Years after Rogers left Astaire to make movie dramas - and win an Oscar - a solo Astaire creates a series of memorable musicals of which this story of putting on a Broadway show makes the most magic. In one sequence, Astaire and partner Cyd Charisse defy gravity as they dance through Central Park. Murphy openly borrows from this routine as Meryl Streep and James Corden express their love for musicals through their well-choreographed steps.

Funny Face (1957)

As much as this classic from director Stanley Donen is Astaire’s film, the movie magic belongs to co-star Audrey Hepburn in one of her two musicals on screen. In one segment, as Astaire the photographer captures the delights of his favorite model, Hepburn delights as she holds a bundle of balloons. Murphy pays homage to this image as he stages musical numbers that would inspire Hepburn to applaud.

Yes, in the movies, everything old is new again. And “The Prom” - with its tribute to the past - emerges as an entertaining new movie, too. Because, some years, we simply need a musical!

See you at the movies.