In 1988, the novel was adapted into a disastrous Broadway musical flop, and thrown away by critics and theatre goers alike, only to have it rescued in the annals of cult theatre memory.
Bringing Carie back to the stage turns out to be a good idea though, and honestly the talented cast and crew of this newly launched version has done their very best to make it work. From what I can tell, it’s a vast improvement over the original staging (which you can get a pretty good sense of via many clips on YouTube).
This is not necessarily an endorsement of the show, however. It’s often clunky, taking itself so seriously that any mere sense of irony or camp was met with explosions of laughter from the audience during the show I sat through. I give everyone involved with this production credit for deciding not to camp it up, but it could have gone a long way in improving the material. Shows like Xanadu or Rock of Ages succeeded because of their sense of humor, but odd respect at the same time for the source. Carrie unfortunately always has the elephant in the room that it’s, well, freakin’ CARRIE: THE MUSICAL to begin with.
The show is at its best when it does justice to Stephen King’s original characters, expanding on their backgrounds through song (after all, everyone is an outcast in high school). Marin Mazzie as Carrie’s mom Margaret gives a performance that rivals Piper Laurie while Molly Ranson’s Carrie White is played with such beautiful believability that you want to run onstage and hug her (pre-blood soaked finale).
And as for the money-shot bucket of blood crescendo of the tragedy, this new production does more with its smaller budget than what could be done in 1988 on stage. Using a combination of colored filters on lights, video projections, minimalist set props and expertly placed sound design, the hell-prom is fully realized in bloody glory.
It’s a highlight from an otherwise unnecessary reboot, with the hope the MCC Theater doesn’t have its eye on Cujo next.
At the Lucille Lortel Theater
121 Christopher Street, West Village, NYC (212) 352-3101
Through April 22nd