Stephen King’s Carrie has become part of our collective consciousness – you’re hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t read the book or seen one of the two film versions, the made-for-TV-movie, or even the sequel (we don’t talk about the sequel.) Fewer people know there was a musical version – which opened and closed quickly on Broadway in the late ‘80s – but which has become a bit of a rare find for theater geeks as it’s not performed often.
Lights Up Productions, performing at the Albany Barn, was brave enough to take on the show – with mixed results.
For anyone who’s not a horror fan: Carrie White (Gillian Flannery) is a high school outcast, a sheltered girl who lives with her religious zealot of a mother (Laurie Larson.) An extreme instance of bullying leads Carrie to realize she is telekinetic, and when Sue (Heather Pangburn) begins to feel regret for picking on Carrie and convinces her boyfriend Tommy (Ethan McKnight) to take Carrie to the prom, the evening is ripe for disaster. The musical, unlike the book, has a message – the price paid for bullying – which works here, where it wouldn’t have in King’s novel.
The show itself isn’t as bad as one might think, given that it’s got such a reputation. The music is pleasant and the script is mostly taken from King’s book (so if you’re a fan of the book, you shouldn’t have a problem with the musical.) This production suffered from technical problems that bogged it down – long (and loud) scene changes, lyrics that were hard to hear over the band, microphone issues, actors being visible back- and offstage – and some confusing costume choices. However, the hardest scenes to pull off well – the prom destruction scene and Carrie’s confrontation with her mother – were very effective and shocking. Kudos to director Katherine Juliano for making what must have been very difficult look very easy.
There were some strong performances that stood out, as well. (Just as a note: the group double-cast the leads; the five main characters were performed by two actors who alternated performances, so the leads I saw would be different the following night.) Flannery made for a fine Carrie; not only was her transformation believable from bullied girl to prom-queen hopeful, but she handled the bloody finale with aplomb. She has a strong voice alone, and beautiful harmonies with others; she was an excellent choice for the role. Pangburn was also a good choice for Sue; it’s a bit of a thankless role, but she performed it well and won over the audience.
While the night wasn’t without its problems, I absolutely applaud the group for taking a risk on a show that isn’t produced often and has an overall positive message (the audience had a preponderance of teens coming to see their friends perform, so they’re the target age.) The good outweighed the bad here, and I was pleased that this musical I’d heard about for so long finally made it to our area.
“Carrie The Musical,” Lights Up Productions, Albany Barn, 56 Second St., Albany, through June 11, $15-$12, Run time: 2 hours and 10 minutes with a 30-minute intermission, www.lightsupprod.com