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A CurtainUp London London Review
Carrie the Musical

"Why didn't you tell me Mama?" — Carrie
Carrie the Musical
Evelyn Hoskins as Carrie (Photo: Claire Bilyard)
Top producer Bill Kenwright's staff were out in force on the opening night of Carrie the Musical at the Off West End venue, Southwark Playhouse, many of them seeing it for at least the second time. This is the commercial interest generated by the re-make of the 1988 musical from the Royal Shakespeare Company, which opened in Stratford upon Avon, and instead of going to London, went straight to New York where it jettisoned into oblivion after five performances. Until, that is, the re-make ran for a respectable 80 performances Off Broadway in 2012. (For Simon Saltzman's review of that production here). As a reminder in 1985 the RSC had opened Trevor Nunn's production of Les Miserables a musical phenomenon but three years later Carrie didn't succeed.

The extensive re-working gives us a sung through musical with two themes, school bullying and child abuse. Close comparison of the musical numbers from Simon Saltzman's review with London sees few changes in Act One but many more in the final act. The director Gary Lloyd is also credited as the choreographer and there are some excitingly danced scenes in the school, in the gym and at the prom. In the opening dance number "In" there are edgy and sharp angular dance moves from the men and gymnastic choreography from the girls with lighting shifts adding drama.

Michael Gore's music is melodic and there are fine singing performances, especially from Jodie Jacobs as the sympathetic teacher Miss Gardner and Evelyn Hoskins as Carrie. Hoskins squeezes her slight frame into a skinnier place as she seems all bunched up and bent over hiding her face. I also admired the performance of and despised the cruelty of the spoilt, out for herself, chief tormentor Chris (Gabriella Williams) who seems to have been taking social advice from her grasping father.

If I have a criticism it is the polarisation of the characterisations. We instantly identify with Carrie (Evelyn Hoskins) for the merciless bullying inflicted on her over her lack of knowledge of the advent of the curse. Further when she asks her mother (Kim Criswell) why she never told her, the explanation offered to Carrie harks back to a punishment for Original Sin. In this first scene with her mother, I felt like calling the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Child Cruelty) to get some help for Carrie.

Only Sue (Sarah McNicholas) and Tommy (Greg Miller-Burns) show some kindness to Carrie and Sue is remorseful for the way in which Carrie was teased in the gym. Kim Criswell is especially fine as the mother with a skewed interpretation of Christianity and her duets with Evelyn Hoskins as her daughter are show stopping. I found it disconcerting when Chris and Billy (Dex Lee) who inflict the most misery on Carrie have a beautiful song together. The tone of musical villainy without irony isn't quite right. Dan Samson's sound design is excellent, well balanced in what can be a difficult space acoustically.

There are some magic and flying effects sadly not all of which came off on press night. But I did see books fly across the room and a bookcase almost topple as Carrie exercises her telekinetic powers. On the expected as opposed to the unexpected, everyone in the audience knows the gist of Stephen King's famous story and that it has to end badly and bloodily. It opens with Sue being questioned about the events of the night of the prom and each scene figures as flashback.

Carrie powerfully puts over a message about the impact of bullying on a vulnerable child and how social exclusion damages the psyche. I hope that Bill Kenwright will find a venue that gives Carrie a West End transfer.

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Carrie the Musical
Music by Michael Gore
Lyrics by Dean Pitchford
Book by Lawrence D Cohen
Based on the novel by Stephen King
Directed and choreographed by Gary Lloyd

Starring: Evelyn Hoskins, Kim Criswell, Jodie Jacobs, Sarah McNicholas, Greg Miller-Burns, Gabriella Williams
With: Dex Lee, David Habbin, Molly McGuire, Bobbie Little, Emily McGougan, Patrick Sullivan, Olly Dobson, Eddie Myles
Musical Director: Mark Crossland
Designer: Tim McQuillen-Wright
Lighting: Tim Oliver
Sound: Dan Samson
Flying Effects: Floyd Hughes
Special Effects: Jeremy Chernick
Running time: Two hours 30 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 020 7407 0234
Booking to 30th May 2015
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 6th May 2015 performance at the Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD (Tube: The Borough or Elephant and Castle)
Musical Numbers
Act One
    "In" - Kids
  • "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, Kids
  • "Evening Prayers" - Carrie. Margaret
  • "Dreamer In Disguise" - Tommy
  • "Once You See" - Sue
  • "Unsuspecting-Hearts" /Miss Gardner, Carrie
  • "Do Me a Favour" - Sue, Chris. Tommy, Billy. Students
  • "I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance" - Carrie, Margaret
Act Two
  • Entr'acte
  • "A Night We'll Never Forget" - Carrie. Chris. Billy, Sue, Kids
  • "You Shine" - Tommy, Sue
  • "Why Not Me?" - Carrie
  • "Stay Here Instead" - Margaret, Carrie
  • "When There's No-One" - Margaret
  • "Prom Arrival" - Kids
  • "Unsuspecting-Hearts" (Reprise) - Carrie, Miss Gardner
  • "Dreamer In Disguise" (Reprise) - Tommy, Carrie, Kids
  • "Chris & Billy Prom" - Chris, Billy, Kids
  • "Prom Climax" - Carrie, Tommy, Chris, Billy, Sue, Miss Gardner, Mr Stephens, Kids
  • "Alma Mater" - Kids and Teachers
  • "The Destruction" - Carrie, Kids
  • "Carrie" (Reprise) - Margaret. Carrie
  • "Epilogue" - Sue, Tommy. Chris, Billy, Kids
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