BWW Reviews: CARRIE at NRACT Is Just In Time for Halloween
Perfectly timed in October, North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre's Carrie is sure to get you in the Halloween mood. First attempted on Broadway over 25 years ago, it was initially a flop. It garnered a kind of cult following in the subsequent years among a niche group of musical theater fans, and was recently resurrected Off-Broadway, dusted off and re-worked for today's audiences. It's now a Carrie for the masses, finally making its way from the New York stage into theaters of all sorts around the country.
The show, based on Stephen King's novel of the same name (which was also adapted into a famous movie), follows outcast Carrie White, whose pathologically devout mother makes her the laughingstock of her high school. Finding that she can no longer take the cruelty from her mother and her peers, she unearths telekinetic powers. Classmate Sue Snell wants to "make things right" with Carrie upon realizing the pain that she and her friends have caused, and gets her boyfriend Tommy Ross in on the acts of kindness. Battling against mean-girl-in-chief Chris, the two go to extremes to make Carrie feel special, including Tommy asking Carrie to the prom. Chris won't be swayed from her vicious ways, and things end disastrously, to say the least.
This production is ambitious and features some great local talent. The three clear standouts are Ann Davis as the titular Carrie, Sandi Sullivan as Carrie's obsessively religious mother Margaret White, and Mary Reilly as Sue Snell, who stands up for Carrie just a little too late. For reasons I cannot divulge for fear of spoiling the show, Sue serves as a sort of unwilling narrator for the show, bringing Carrie's story to the audience. Despite not being the title character, Reilly has a big responsibility as Sue, and deftly shoulders a large portion of the show. Of the musical numbers, those that make the biggest impact are "Once You See," "You Shine," and the getting-ready-for-prom number "A Night We'll Never Forget." Overall, the group numbers are sung well and sound great. The cast sounds good together and the songs which feature a large chorus do an excellent job highlighting skilled vocalists with harmony parts and riffs which sound fantastic. Despite a few singers whose voices can't quite meet the demands of the score (and to be fair, it is pretty demanding), the overall quality of the vocal talent is high, and the end result is enjoyable.
Like the recent Off-Broadway production, the show makes use of projection to accomplish some of Carrie's magic (slamming windows, fire, etc.). There are some moments when the projection is used very effectively - like to create library "scenery;" it is so effective in that instance that it might make one wonder why more projection wasn't utilized to create different spaces on stage. Some of the sound effects are a little oddly placed in the theater - a slamming window might be better accomplished by banging on a wall upstage rather than behind the audience, for example. Overall, the design elements make good use of the space, especially considering that the script goes back and forth between locations often, from the gym to the classroom to Carrie's house and more. Chairs are moved around the stage to convey different places, and the effect is smooth, well-timed, and very well suited to the show.
Though the novel was published in 1974, the film came out in 1976, and the musical originally flopped on Broadway in 1988 (boasting only 16 previews and 5 performances), this is an updated version of the musical which takes place now. The kids talk like teens today, have cell phones, and in general seem like products of the new millennium. The longevity of the novel and multiple platforms which have told King's story go to show that issues in the show, like bullying, are a powerful part of the cultural zeitgeist, and matter now perhaps more than ever. Despite being a suspenseful work with elements of magic and terrifying fantasy, the ultimate message of Carrie is plain and simple: how you treat people matters.
Carrie runs through November 3. For tickets and more information, visit www.nract.org.