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Review Roundup: CARRIE is Back on Stage! All the Reviews!

The newly reworked and fully re-imagined production of Carrie, the musical, had its first preview on January 31, 2012 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre and officially opened tonight, March 1, 2012 Off-Broadway!

Based on Stephen King's bestselling novel, the musical of Carrie hasn't been seen since its legendary 1988 Broadway production. Now, the show's original authors have joined with director Stafford Arima and MCC Theater for a newly reworked and fully re-imagined vision of this gripping tale. Set today, in the small town of Chamberlain, Maine, Carrie features a book by Lawrence D. Cohen, music by Academy Award winning composer Michael Gore, and lyrics by Academy Award winning lyricist Dean Pitchford.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Ben Brantley, The New York TimesPerhaps because of the prevalence of such shock fests, the revamped musical “Carrie” has taken a counterintuitive approach, scaling down the gothic while scaling up the commonplace. Yes, there’s a bit of thunder along the way, and some shadowy lighting effects (by Kevin Adams). But metaphorically and literally, screams have mostly been replaced by a conversational drone. Only a few minutes into the show — which is presented, rather lazily, in flashback from a police station interrogation room — a survivor of the prom night from hell explains, “What you need to understand is that we were just kids.”

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: The MCC Theater's re-imagined production of "Carrie" that opened Thursday at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on Christopher Street is an attempt to reclaim what must be assumed is a stirring work evidently lost in the 1988 original, one of Broadway's most notorious failures. The result may be better, but it's nowhere near good. Some lovely music is marred by a patronizing, out-of-touch book, an overwrought tone and characters that seem as light and insubstantial as an after-school TV special. How bad is it? The new version directed by Stafford Arima produced quite a few titters during a recent preview. That's not good news: It's not a comedy. While it's not clear what "Carrie" is trying to be, it's not supposed to be funny.

Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Desperately trying to avoid any suggestion of camp, Arima goes for the opposite extreme and steers clear from anything that could suggest flamboyance. There are blood-red projections rather than gore, and we don’t see enough of Carrie’s psychic powers. So she moves a chair without touching it — big deal. But this is a larger-than-life tale where the supernatural plays a big part. Depriving it of visual and sonic extravagance completely misses the point. Poor Carrie: First she’s the victim of bullies, then she falls to well-intentioned advocates.

Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: In 1988 “Carrie” opened on Broadway and died in three days. It was overblown. Reviled. It became a legend. That was then. Now, director Stafford Arima’s modest and economical projection-heavy staging doesn’t inspire extreme reactions. It’s just another so-so musical adaptation of a popular novel that fails to expand upon its source. It’s not bad enough to be campy fun or stirring enough to really embrace.

Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: Now she’s back (I suppose ‘baack!’ is more apt), in a scaled-down, more thematically persuasive revision of the musical whose heroine is the ultimate victim of bullying as well as child abuse. No red goop drenches her in the climactic scene, which is symptomatic of the entire enterprise. It’s earnest and underpopulated, and it’s bloodless.

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter / Reuters: An infamous Broadway flop becomes just another insipid teen-angst musical in this well-intentioned but misguided revision.

Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: What's clear in watching this underwhelming act of theatrical resuscitation is that Carrie is not a great, lost musical. Gore's pop-rock score is pleasant but not particularly memorable, and Dean Pitchford's lyrics are a mumble-mouthed jumble (consider this representative sample from the high school-set opening number: 'In is it! / What comes close to that? / Until you've been in / You ain't where it's at!'). What the show has going for it is the evocative source material, but in stripping the story of its camp value Arima and his team have also robbed it of any sense of fun. C

Matt Windman, AM New York: 2.5 Stars - Alas, Stafford Arima's new Off-Broadway staging is not so much a revival as it is an unnecessary apology for the excess, mess and insanity of the bizarre original production...Marin Mazzie, who displays a quiet intensity as Margaret White, Carrie's religious fanatic of a mother, is noticeably restrained in the role. Molly Ranson has a terrific voice but generally fails to suggest Carrie's extrasensory strength and spooky personality. At the prom, she looks and acts just like all the other teens.

Adam Feldman, TimeOut New YorkThe scenes at Carrie’s high school, where she is the object of cruel taunts—her telekinesis is like a symbolic extension of her nascent, confused sexuality—are less consistent, but Arima builds them swiftly and effectively. Improvements remain to be made: Several lyrics still clang on the ear; the show doesn’t quite fit in its framing device, the testimony of a simpering survivor of Carrie’s final carnage; and that climactic, violent sequence could be both clearer (in terms of staging) and messier (in terms of blood). But the musical as a whole has cleaned up remarkably nice. Welcome to the prom, Carrie. They’re not going to laugh at you now.

Linda Winer, Newsday: The MCC Theater's sincere and dead-serious production -- reduced and rethought with strange dignity by director Stafford Arima -- has just enough bubblegum pop and heartfelt shock appeal to be a sort of "Grease" for the post-Columbine generation. With its revenge-of-the-outcast message and its shriek-show gothic story, the former joke of a musical about a bullied teen with telekinetic powers now feels like a bonanza for the high-school thespian market.

Michael Musto, The Village Voice: It's never going to be a classic, but those who wished they'd gone the Xanadu route and camped up the material might be pleasantly (or rather, unpleasantly) surprised.

Jonathan Mandell, The Faster TimesCarrie is a misfit because of her religious fanatic of a mother, here played by Marin Mazzie of “Next to Normal.’ As in the original, when Betty Buckley played the part, we have here a performer of exquisite voice and deep acting chops made to sing “Baby, Don’t Cry” as she stabs her with a huge knife. But this time Mazzie has the added burden of underplaying it. The best thing that will come out of this revised “Carrie” would be a cast album; one was never made. There are 17 songs here, almost all with banal lyrics, but most with pleasing tunes. A cast recording will be “Carrie”‘s revenge.

Michael Sommers, NJ Newsroom: Exploding over Broadway like the “Hindenburg” back in 1988, “Carrie” was one of the most notorious theatrical disasters of the last 25 years, but now the musical has been newly revamped by its makers and tuned up into a surprisingly entertaining thriller.

Robert Feldberg, The revisions, which include reducing the show's scale and refocusing its story, certainly make it better. It still falls short, though, of being a truly successful stage version of Stephen King's scary novel and the vivid 1976 film version.

Erik Haagensen, BackstageIt's clear that a great deal of loving care and musical-theater intelligence have gone into the reworking of "Carrie," the musical version of Stephen King's bestselling novel that was an infamous 1988 Broadway flop. Shepherded by director Stafford Arima and reconceived on an intimate scale, the show has a clearer and tighter book and a more successfully integrated score. Unfortunately, the musical's central problem is unsolved: The only interesting characters are the mousy Carrie White and her fanatically religious mother, Margaret. Whenever they are not onstage, banality reigns.... As Carrie, Molly Ranson is every bit as good, touching as the withdrawn and wary misfit, then persuasively charting Carrie's halting steps into life, culminating in the radiant young woman who goes off to the prom. Ranson is especially successful suggesting the boiling rage beneath Carrie's timid reserve, something she anchors early on in a strong rendition of the first-rate title song. Both women deploy their impressive voices with intelligence, moving in character-enhancing ways among clear soprano, lovely mix, and vivid belting (also a tribute to the fine music direction of Mary-Mitchell Campbell).

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