When it premiered on Broadway in 1988, Carrie: The Musical lasted just 16 previews and five performances, earning a dubious place in theater history as one of the Great White Way’s biggest flops of all time.
Carrie follows the story of a teenage girl with telekinetic powers whose lonely life is dominated by an oppressive religious fanatic mother. For those that know the movie or the best selling book by Stephen King on which it’s based, the musical follows the plot pretty closely. Perhaps the biggest problem with Lawrence D. Cohen’s story is that it never really captures the horror that’s expected.
While Emily Zickler does her best to convey Carrie’s “powers,” co-directors Keith Alan Baker and Jacob Janssen don’t really play up the character’s special abilities clearly. Aside from a broken light here and a floating cross there, not much was done to reveal how strong her powers really were until the final act. Zickler brings out all the innocence and vulnerability needed in the role of the awkward teen. She sings sweetly on “Open Your Heart” and the duet “Unsuspecting Hearts,” but misses a bit of the power that would have been better served on “The Destruction,” when Carrie wreaks havoc on her classmates.
The directors do make great use of the large cast on the small stage, who make Michael J. Bobbitt’s choreography come alive. The dancing throughout the rock musical was fun and free, with Taylor Elise Rector especially impressive.
Scenes in the high school were highlighted by a great ensemble, which did wonders with Michael Gore’s music and Dean Pitchford’s lyrics. The harmonies shined from the first lines of the opening number, “In” and never disappointed, making me wish for more group numbers.
It’s when the action shifted to Carrie’s home that the musical lost some of its luster. Barbara Walsh gave a great performance as Carrie’s crazed mom, and was in wonderful voice on “Evening Prayers” and “Unsuspecting Hearts,” but the numerous ballads slowed the pace of the show too much. The musical works much better when it concentrates on the students and the more ubiquitous fast songs of a rock musical.
The story does seem to give more for Maria Rizzo as popular girl Sue to do than Carrie herself—another slight problem with the book—but Rizzo is divine in the role and worthy of the extra stage time.
Robert Mueller comes off as a little bland as Sue’s boyfriend and Carrie’s prom savior, but that’s mostly due to a lack of character development in the book. Same holds true for Jamie Eacker as Miss Gardener, Carrie’s gym teacher, who aside from delivering a gorgeous ballad with “Unsuspecting Hearts,” has little to do. Both these characters are much better defined in the movie and book.
Eben K. Logan as top Heather of the school is a little too “cartoonish” mean but wow, can she sing, belting effortlessly in “The World According to Chris” and several of the group numbers. A.J. Melendez as her love/partner in crime has some of my favorite facial expressions in the musical and you can see the hypnotic affect his girlfriend has on him that leads to his being a co-conspirator in what becomes the notorious final blood-filled scene.
CARRIE THE MUSICAL
Closes August 3, 2014
1501 14th St. NW Washington
2 hours, 10 minutes with 1 intermission
Tickets: $20 – $45
Things happen a little too quickly at the end and if you don’t know the story going in, you might not completely grasp what happens to Carrie, her mother and the town. The concluding “Epilogue” doesn’t really do its job in wrapping things up but it’s not that hard to put together the pieces.
Carrie: The Musical isn’t going to enjoy Wicked-like success anytime soon, but fans of the movie, book or the horror genre in general will enjoy the production. Studio does a nice job crafting what amounts to a bloody good time.
Carrie: The Musical . music by Michael Gore . lyrics by Dean Pitchford . book by Lawrence D. Cohen, based on the novel by Stephen King . directed by Keith Alan Baker and Jacob Janssen . Featuring Emily Zickler (Carrie White), Barbara Walsh (Margaret White), Maria Rizzo (Sue Snell), Rob Mueller (Tommy Ross), Eben Logan (Chris Hargensen), AJ Melendez (Billy Nolan), Jamie Eacker (Miss Gardner), Ben Lurye (Mr. Stephens), Dani Stoller (Norma), Sarah Chapin (Frieda), Lance Hayes (George), David Little (Stokes), Christian Montgomery (Freddy), Taylor Elise Rector (Ensemble), and Sean Patrick Grady (Ensemble) . Musical director: Darius Smith . Choreography: Michael J. Bobbitt . Set design: Luciana Stecconi . Costume design: Kelsey Hunt . Lighting design: Laura J. Eckelman . Production design: Sarah Tunderman . Sound design: A.J. Johnson . Production by Studio Theatre 2nd Stage . Reviewed by Keith Loria.
Tanya Pai . Washingtonian
Doug Rule . MetroWeekly
Barbara Mackay . Theatermania
Chuck Conconi . Washington Blade
April Forrer . MDTheatreGuide
Trey Graham . City Paper
Peter Marks . Washington Post
Gary Tischler . Georgetowner
David Friscic . DCMetroTheaterArts
Keith Tittermary . BroadwayWorld