I felt as if I had stepped back in some strange time warp. The year was 1988 and I saw Carrie: The Musical on Broadway. It was also some time around then, I saw the off-Broadway play Steel Magnolias at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Well, those two came together when I caught the 2012 revamped Carrie playing at the Lortel this weekend. And I'm so glad that I did.
The musical of Carrie has been the butt of numerous jokes. The idea of turning Stephen King's book into a musical baffled many. It was the largest flop in history. Even the title of a book of flops. But for those of us old enough to have seen Betty Buckley & Linzi Hately in the original (and trust me, the amount of people that say they actually saw it have grown beyond the number the theater would have held) - we have been waiting for years for someone to rework this musical. For many of us, the scenes between Carrie & her mother were opera gold. Beautiful arias and duets that sent shivers down your spine. And then the rest of the show would happen. And you would ask yourself "what bad 80s nightmare have I been dropped into where the torture is unending dance scenes, pyrotechnics, and some cutesy telekinetic dance number with shoes." (You can search the internet to see others videos of the original or someone has put together a listing from both productions.)
But many have said the show could be fixed. It deserved to be salvaged. And the writing team returned under the directive eye of Stafford Arima (who at my age also saw the show at 19 the first time around) and have scaled down that vast show from the late 80s. The critics have seen it, they've weighed in - but let me share my thoughts.
|Marin Mazzie & Molly Ranson in Carrie|
But where this performance works more for me is the changes to the other characters. I loved that it was moved to the present where bullying is such a hot topic. The actors playing the other 'kids' were believable - something I never felt the first time around (and remember: I was 19 when I saw it then and still didn't understand why every word was accompanied by a kick split in the air). There seemed to be more emphasis placed on these people and how they felt (new songs) rather than "let's all do the same dance moves in the same white clothes and sing about killing a pig." (And thank God they got rid of the song "Don't Waste the Moon" which sadly I can still sing in my head.) I understood each of the characters a little more as solos made us see inside of them (and isn't that what musical theatre is about?) I know there were original songs to give us some insight into Sue and others, but they were overshadowed by the enormity of that production. And by having less people on stage now - each person had a purpose and a real character. Not just 'ensemble wearing white #8'.
|2012: Didn't wait for Mazzie|
Everyone waits for the 'blood' scene in Carrie...and it was cleverly achieved in this show. And I still found myself feeling for her and her mother by the closing scene.
|1988: Greg & Buckley after show|