note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Sheila Barth
Yes, “Carrie the Musical” is creepy, but not scary.
Yes, SpeakEasy Stage Company’s production of “Carrie the Musical” is based on Stephen King’s horror novel, and the 1976 terrifying Brian DePalma film about bullied, supernaturally avenging teen-ager, Carrie White.
And, yes, it’s also the same musical that flopped in London and New York in 1988, but it’s immensely revamped and rewritten to remove some of that earlier production’s gore and dead weight.
Face it. With ultra-famous, talented principals like book writer-screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, composer Michael Gore, and lyricist Dean Pitchford, whose hits include some of Broadway’s and Hollywood’s award-winning finest, “Carrie” isn’t destined for disaster this time.
While some critics are panning this new version and think it should be put out of its misery, I disagree.
SpeakEasy Stage Co., Director Paul Melone, and Music Director Nicholas James Connell focus on “Carrie’s” message, which is more important now than ever. Contemporary, rampant teen-age emotional abuse has driven fed-up victims to unleash their own fury against their tormentors and society with guns, explosives, knives, or whatever destructive means they can.
The story is told in flashback, with Carrie’s conscience-stricken friend Sue Snell under interrogation, about May 28, the night of the senior prom and mass doom.
Maine high school senior Carrie White (Boston Conservatory student Elizabeth Erardi) discovers she possesses an inner battery of destruction. She no longer has to walk around wincing, slope-shouldered, miserable, when she’s taunted. She’s telekinetic, able to move and destroy objects at will, thanks to sound and lighting designers, David Reiffel and Jeff Adelberg’s, special effects.
However, Seaghan McKay’s overhead video projected images are superfluous, adding nothing here.
Overall, the cast is laudable, especially Eradi, whose aura of innocence and hopefulness is deeply moving, especially in scenes with Boston versatile superstar, Kerry Dowling portraying Carrie’s religious zealot mother Margaret. Dowling’s Bible-thumping, verse-quoting mania is more terrifying than Carrie’s telekinetic ability to move and crash furniture and wall crucifixes.
Also finely drawn are Sue, (Sarah Drake); kindly teacher Miss Gardner (Shonna Cironne); teen bullies Chris (Paige Berkovitz) and her bad boyfriend, Billy (Phil Tayler). Excluding Daniel Scott Walton as teen-ager George, who injects humor throughout the play, the rest of the cast are a fine song-and-dance ensemble, but basically wallpaper. Sadly, that includes Sue’s boyfriend, Tommy, (Joe Longthorne), whose poetic soul touches Carrie. When he asks Carrie to the prom (at Sue’s request), Carrie’s initially suspicious, then hopeful. Tommy is a shoulder-shrugging neutral here.
Yes, there’s the cruel, humiliating scene where Carrie is doused with pig’s blood at the prom.
Yes, there’s the riveting scene where Carrie uses her telekinesis to destroy her mother after Margaret stabs Carrie with a kitchen knife to save her from damnation.
And, yes, you weep for this troubled teenager who never had a chance to fulfill her one wish in life - to be like everybody else.
I strongly recommend teens and young adults see “Carrie the Musical”. Maybe they’ll get the message.
BOX INFO: New England premiere of two-act musical, appearing with SpeakEasy Stage Company through June 7, at Boston Center for the Arts, Roberts Studio Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion, 527 Tremont St., South End, Boston. Performances:Wednesday, Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.; Saturday, 4,8 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m.; June 4, at 2 p.m. Tickets start at $25; seniors, students, discounts; age $25-under, $25. Call 617-933-8600 or visit www.BostonTheatreScene.com.