Presented by Speakeasy Stage Company
Music by Michael Gore
Lyrics by Dean Pitchford
Book by Lawrence D. Cohen
Based on the novel by Stephen King
Directed by Paul Melone
Music directed by Nicholaus James Connell
Choreographed by Larry Sousa
Trigger Warning: Fanatical Christianity, Gore, Attractive Youths Kissing, Depictions of High School
Review by Kitty Drexel mediocrity
(Boston) The story of Carrietta White is supposed in invoke sympathy from its reader. Stephen King wrote a story about a young woman so hopelessly naïve and sheltered from the world that she has no tactics to cope with common life stressors. It’s easy enough to relate to her story, to put ourselves in her shoes because everyone feels like an outsider at one time or another. Unfortunately, Carrie is not actually a relatable character. Her life is in no way comparable to another’s. The impossible fantasy of Carrie is what makes the novel/movie/musical. Attempting to make her relatable or identifiable is a stretch that is in no way feasible. And yet, as long as there are outsiders who wish they had super powers, the comparison will be made anyway.
Speakeasy Stage Co’s talent does an exceptional job with the terrible writing of Carrie the Musical. The formulaic book has flashes of excellence but is weighed down by hokey lyrics and scoring derivative of just about every pop musical that has come before it (coughCameron MacKintoshcough). Thankfully, stagecraft wizardry, sound direction, and good staging picks this musical up by its bootstraps. The cast turns this carbuncle of a musical into something worth seeing and enjoying.
Carrie has the potential to be a sweet story until it all goes to Hell in a handbasket. Sue, the popular, nice girl treats, Carrie, the class underdog to the prom she’s always dreamed of – complete with hunky date – to make up for years of bullying. Carrie and the other kids have a lovely time until Chris, the popular bitch, ruins everything. Everyone dies. Literally.
All of the actors are fantastic. Sarah Drake (Sue Snell), Paige Berkovitz (Chris Henderson) and Joe Longthorne (Tommy Ross) give surprising depth to their two-dimensional, stock characters. Their energy draws attention and keeps it while they lure the audience into a sympathetic communal angst. They are as real as the high schoolers they remind you of.
Elizabeth Erardi in the title role has a strong stage presence for a character that spends her existence drawing as little attention as possible. She has a robust belt and career floating-charisma that lights up the stage even when focus is moved away from her presence. She is paired well Kerry A. Dowling (Margaret White, the fanatical mom). They brought equal weight to their shared scenes and their voices blended beautifully despite their very different technical backgrounds.
Dowling excels as Carrie’s manipulative, abusive mother who suffers mental health complications stemming from marital rape. Her’s is a violently powerful performance and proof perfect that it is possible to be classically trained and still sing the crap out of any music.* Her interpretation of “When There’s No One” lends an unexpected vulnerability and innocence to an otherwise batsh!t crazy woman. Dowling’s is an award-winning performance.
The musical adaptation of Carrie doesn’t work. Rather than stay true to the novel’s horror roots, Gore, Pitchford and Cohen made this musical “family friendly” (as family-friendly as Stephen King can be). It is missing the bold terror-inflicting elements that made it such a memorable novel and movie. The intense emotional scenes are watered down for expediency’s sake. The violence is lessened to accommodate patrons who have mistakenly brought their kids. Carrie isn’t supposed to be for kids. It’s supposed to warn “adults” about the consequences of undiagnosed psychopathy, bullying, slut shaming, and victim blaming. Yet, Speakeasy’s production is worth seeing and hearing. The show is neglectfully written but the cast and crew make it worth attending despite its many setbacks.
*If I hear one more opera singer complain that they need to “act with their eyes,” I swear I will splinter into millions of tiny little pieces, mix with the summer pollen, and poison us all. You’ve got a whole body with which to act. No one is hiring you for your “eyes” only.