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A CurtainUp Review
Carrie, the Musical

Scary White, Scary White, Scary White — The Students

That's not my name! Doesn't anybody ever get it right?
Why don't they remember i am Carrie White?
Is that any harder to say than goddamn toad and
Spastic and weirdo and dumb bitch?

Carrie, the Musical
Marin Mazzie and Molly Ransom
(Photo credit: Joan Marcus)
While the incidents of bullying among students continue to be of concern to parents, educators, and the community, the results of this social pathology are too often tragic. Much has been written and discussed about the need of the perpetrators to wield power in defense of their own feelings of inadequacy as well as the inability of the victims to either defend themselves or assume an offensive position. Carrie, the 1974 macabre best-selling novel by Stephen King about a high school student who discovers that she can retaliate against her abusers telekinetically was subsequently made into a hugely successful film in 1976 directed by shock-meister Brian DePalma.

Carrie made the unlikely transition from film to mega-musical in 1988 in an American and British (Royal Shakespeare Company) co-production that crossed the Atlantic and, to put it succinctly, “bombed” and closed after five performances. Those who saw that over-produced, dramatically misshapen, fiasco, however, kept its memory alive, often referring with praise to its ambitious score.

What made Carrie special was that, despite its ability to scare the hell out of us, it told a compassionate and heart-breaking story that had at its core a semblance of para-normal credence (if there is such a thing.) How great it is to report that Carrie is back in a fast-moving, streamlined, free-of-glitz, but still full of dementia, production. It's directed with savvy flair by Stafford Arima (Altar Boyz). A mottled grey gymnasium wall serves as the basic unit setting designed by David Zinn —thanks to the atmospheric visual effects created by lighting designer Kevin Adams and the projection designer Sven Ortel. How exciting it is to once again see Carrie White (now terrifically sung and acted by Molly Ranson) summon up her telekinetic powers (great special effects by Matthew Holtzclaw) when moved to rebel against the demands made upon her by the demented Margaret White, her paranoiac religious zealot mother (a blistering, fevered performance by Marin Mazzie?) We are once again reminded how brilliantly mesmerizing Mazzie (Next to Normal, Enron, Spamalot, Kiss Me Kate) can be when given the right role. Seeing how the rage-consumed Carrie takes revenge against her humiliating and disparaging peers at the High School Prom after realizing she has been betrayed is also a mesmerizing eyeful

Lawrence D. Cohen’s revised and re-shaped book has been nicely updated to the present day. This allows much of the action that involves the frisky interplay of the students, to be enhanced by Matt Williams’s energetic choreography with its emphasis on contemporary body-language. Still impressive is the rhapsodic, hyper-ventilating score by Michael Gore (music) and Dean Pitchford (lyrics) that not only drives the super romantic segments, but also the exalted/fantastical religiosity as expressed in Mazzie’s arias.

As this is a far cry from the numbing (though I remember it fondly) Broadway production, it may be assumed that Arima has extracted only those elements from the original show that work to tell the story without gumming it up with excessive production values. To be sure, it is still full of the dramatically realized dementia and the frenzied musical numbers that helped to define the original but with three songs deleted and three new ones inserted to greater effect.

Ranson, who has been associated with this production of Carrie since its first reading in 2009, has a singing voice that can assuredly shake any objects that Carrie’s mind doesn’t. She also makes a stunning transition from homely to pretty and looks radiant (that is until she sets the bloody gym ablaze) in the pink gown designed by Emily Rebholz, who also does a nifty job with the other teen’s trendy costumes.

No one will be able to say that Mazzie doesn’t own Margaret White’s demented mission in life which it seems is to shape Carrie into a twisted image of herself. Mazzie packs stoical authority into her solo “When There’s No One,” the scarily biblical “And Eve Was Weak” and in the desperately motherly duet with Carrie “Stay Here Instead.”

There are some standout supporting performances, including Carmen Cusack as the compassionate gym teacher whose “Unsuspecting Hearts” is one of the best songs. Christy Altomare is excellent as Sue Snell, the girl who tries to help Carrie. Derek Klena is perfect as Sue’s hunky boyfriend Tommy who takes Carrie to the prom, as is Jenna De Waall as the vicious and vindictive Chris.

It is Broadway’s loss that Gore and Pitchford (best know for collaborating on the Academy Award-winning score for Fame) weren’t encouraged or inclined to write another Broadway show, as this score delivers both melodically and informingly in the best musical theater tradition. Although I see no reason why the performers needed electronic boosting in this very small theater, it may have helped the splendid eight musicians playing the score sound like eighty.

One more thing about the Lucille Lortel Theater where Carrie will most likely have an extended run: As I have sat in almost every corner of it, I can attest to the fact that there are no good seats due to the lack of a proper rake. Praise again to director Arima for keeping the performers moving around the stage in ways that allow us to see most everyone most of the time. This historic Off Broadway theater, however, desperately needs to be gutted and re-constructed, just like Carrie.

Although I'm not suggesting that Carrie is a likely candidate for a move to Broadway, it is no longer a misguided venture, but a compact, cleverly reconceived restoration. Unlike the campy, parodic approach taken to bring The Silence of the Lambs comically to the stage as Silence: The Musical, Carrie wants to be taken seriously, well not exactly. Even if the story defies rational analysis, this musical is certainly among the more unsettling and unusual musicals of our time.

Book by Lawrence D. Cohen (based on the novel by Stephen King)
Music by Michael Gore and Lyrics by Dean Pitchford
Directed by Stafford Arima

Cast: Marin Mazzie (Margaret White), Molly Ranson (Carrie White), Christy altomare (Sue), Carmen Cusack (Lynn), Jeanna De Waal (Chris), Derek Klena (Tommy), Ben Thompson (Billy), Wayne Alan Wilcox (Mr. Stephens), Corey Boardman (George), Blair Goldberg (Norma), F. Michael Haynie (Freddy), Andy Mientus (Stokes), Elly Noble (Helen), Jen Sese (Frieda).
Set Design: David Zinn
Costume Design: Emily Rebholz
Lighting Design: Kevin Adams
Sound Design: Jonathan Deans
Projection Design: Sven Ortel
Special Effects: Matthew Holtzclaw
Music Direction and Arrangements: Mary-Mitchell Campbell
Choreography: Matt Williams
Running time: 2 hours including intermission
Lucille Lortel Theater, 121 Christopher Street
Tickets: $89.00
From 01/31/12 Opened 03/02/12 Ends 04/22/12
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 02/29/12
Musical Numbers
Act One
    "In" /Students
  • "Carrie" /Carrie
  • "Open Your Heart" /Reverend Bliss. Margaret, Carrie, Choir
  • "And Eve Was Weak" /Margaret, Carrie
  • "The World According to Chris" /Chris, Billy, Sue, Tommy, Students
  • "Evening Prayers" /Carrie. Margaret
  • "Dreamer In Disguise" /Tommy
  • "Once You See" /Sue
  • "Unsuspecting-Hearts" /Miss Gardner, Carrie
  • "Do Me a Favor" /Sue, Chris. Tommy, Billy. Students
  • "I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance" /Carrie, Margaret
Act Two
  • "A Night We'll Never Forget" /Carrie. Chris. Billy, Sue, Students
  • "You Shine" /Tommy, Sue
  • "Why Not Me?"/ Carrie
  • "Stay Here Instead" /Margaret, Carrie
  • "When There's No One" /Margaret
  • "The Prom" /Company
  • "Carrie" (reprise) /Margaret. Carrie
  • Epilogue /Sue, Company
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