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Carrie: The Musical (Review)

By Rick Pender · September 23rd, 2013 · Onstage
todo_carriethemusical_jessefoxCarrie: The Musical - Photo: Jesse Fox
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It takes a brave theater company to stage Carrie: The Musical. Since 1988 when it lasted for just five nights on Broadway and lost its $8 million investment, it’s been ridiculed nearly as much as its beleaguered central character, who is frightened and ridiculed when she begins menstruating at age 17. In 2012, the show was reconceived and some new music was added, resulting in more charitable reviews. That’s the version Showbiz Players is staging.

In the program, director Michael Shawn Starks writes that the story’s core (from Stephen King’s 1974 novel) “is not the fantastical, horrific elements, but the deeply-rooted emotional terrorization of a young girl both at home and at school.” This concept makes it more contemporary as a musical about parental abuse and bullying. But I suspect audiences go to see Carrie looking for blood and destruction, not murky psychologizing.

We see the horrendous prank played on Carrie at the prom, but it’s done with a wash of red light, which has been used in numerous earlier scenes. She doesn’t return to the stage blood-soaked for at least five anti-climactic minutes.

Carrie does offer some powerful musical numbers, especially “And Eve Was Weak” and “I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance” between the repressed girl (Melissa Campbell) and her mother Margaret (Lesley Hitch), a religious fanatic. They belt out their numbers, but the Carnegie’s muddy sound system renders the fevered lyrics all but unintelligible. Emotion is there, but words are lost.

Carrie persecutor is nasty girl Chris (Brooke Steele); good girl Sue (Emily Rowekamp) tries to help, but offering her boyfriend Tommy (Brandon Fox) as Carrie’s prom date has tragedy written all over it. The script gives little foundation for Carrie’s telekinetic powers, eventually used to wreak vengeance on her classmates. When she finally explodes after being humiliated, the results are just weird: the kids fling themselves around the dimly lit stage. But are they dead? Carrie’s tragic showdown with her mother similarly lacks enough context to explain what’s happening.

Showbiz has assembled a strong cast for Carrie, and Amy Burgess’s ambitious and well-performed choreography is a highlight. But, good golly, I wish this were in service of a better work of musical theater. It seems like a scary waste of energy.

CARRIE: THE MUSICAL, presented by Showbiz Players at The Carnegie in Covington, continues through Sept. 29.


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