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Interview: CARRIE at Columbus Immersive Theater

Theatre hopes transfusion of Stephen King novel into musical will “B” positive

Interview: CARRIE at Columbus Immersive Theater

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If there were a secondary title to the Columbus Immersive Theater's production of CARRIE, it would be There Will Be Blood.

Lots of blood, in fact.

Eli Brickey, who plays the title character in the musical, made sure there will be plenty of pints available for the climatic prom scene.

"Everybody, whether they've seen the movie or not, knows about the prom scene and what's looming over it," Brickey said. "In other productions there been more technical elements with lights, sound effects, projection screens or other elements like that (to carry off that dousing of Carrie in pig blood scene), but we definitely wanted to stay true to the whole story.

"The audience is anticipating and excited to see that scene, so I think we definitely stay true to (the original movie) by having fake blood. I was very adamant about that."

CARRIE will run July 29 - Aug. 8 at the Garden Theater (1187 N. High Street in the Short North District).

Playing in a horror musical is nothing new for Brickey, who was in Columbus Immersive Theater's and Shorth North Stage's productions of EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL and THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.

However, CARRIE is not schlocky, campy or over the top. The musical, which features the book by Lawrence D. Cohen, lyrics from Dean Pitchford (FAME and FOOTLOOSE) and music by Michael Gore (FAME), draws its inspiration from Stephen King's book and Brian DiPalma's film version of CARRIE.

"When I moved back here for this production, I told everybody I was doing Carrie the musical. They all immediately responded with

'How in the world is Carrie, the Stephen King horror novel, going to work in musical form?'" said Lucy Breedlove, who plays Sue Snell in the play. "I am not a huge fan of horror movies, but I feel like they found a nice way to get the message across without having it to be this disgusting thing."

The show, which is directed by Edward Carignan, choreographed by Dionysia Williams with music direction by Que Jones, draws from Columbus' very deep talent pool. SNS veteran Linda Kinnison Roth (who plays Carrie's mother Margaret), and a host of young talent from the Ohio State University, Otterbein University, and several area high schools join Brickey and Breedlove.

"Both Edward, the director, and I are huge horror movie buffs," Brickey said. "When my older sisters would babysit me, they'd show me horror movies, thinking I wouldn't really recall the movies they were playing.

"Some of my earliest memories were watching horror movies with them and being more intrigued than scared. I was always just so excited and thrilled by them. To this day, I just can't get enough of it."

Breedlove, on the other hand, admits to not being a fan of the genre or modern musicals in general. Her association with CARRIE came when she was watching it online with her parents and grandparents earlier this year.

"It's surprisingly hard to find," Breedlove said. "In the beginning there's this whole shower scene and the movie starts buffering. My grandpa is on his iPad and looks up and the movie's stuck on a naked Sissy Spacek with blood dripping down her leg."

Had it not been for Christy Altomare, there's a good chance Breedlove wouldn't have been intrigued with the show. Breedlove has been told she has a similar style and voice to Altomare, who also played Sue in CARRIE. When she was looking for songs to beef up her repertoire, Breedlove came across Altomare's performance on the CARRIE soundtrack.

"I'm definitely a golden age girl," the Otterbein graduate said. "I grew up on Gershwin and jazz standards but when I heard a CARRIE recording, there's something that really drew me to it and I quite enjoyed it."

The happenstance of that discovery is not uncommon among CARRIE fans. In its original run in 1988, the musical lasted only 16 previews and five shows on Broadway. Because of the show's notoriety, author Ken Mandelbaum used the musical in the title of his 1991 book about Broadway bombs: "Not Since CARRIE: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops."

While it floundered on Broadway, its songs had some holding power. Betty Buckley, who was in the 1988 cast, recorded "When There's No One" for a 1993 album Children Will Listen and her 1999 record Betty Buckley's Broadway while Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner plugged in the show's "Unsuspecting Hearts" as the title track on their 1999 album.

As a show, CARRIE had a facelift, replaced seven of its original songs, and attempted a Off-Broadway revival in 2012. It closed after 34 previews and 46 performances.

The show also experienced 2015 revivals in London's West End and in Los Angeles.

"One thing I've loved about the Short North Stage and Columbus Immersive Theatre is they've tried to introduce audiences to material that just kind of goes under the radar," Brickey said. "I am excited for Columbus audiences to see this one."

And she's willing to spill a lot of blood to do it.

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