Theatre Review: “Carrie” @ Lucille Lortel Theatre, 02/18/12

I can’t even begin to tell you how exciting this new production of Carrie is. Frankly, I was only going because of my morbid sense of curiosity. I wanted to see what MCC Theatre could do with this infamous flop of a musical and guess what: they nailed it.

First off, the story is heart-wrenching. I was expecting this silly horror-infused story, that was full of camp and completely affected, but it was the exact opposite. It pulled at my heart strings in ways I wasn’t expecting. The book by Lawrence D. Cohen, based on Stephen King’s novel, focuses in on Carrie’s tormentors and the horrifying bullying that happens at school everyday. It’s completely heart-breaking.

I was pulled in instantly with the first song, “In” sung by all of the students. The teenage angst was comparable to “Totally F*cked” and “Bitch of a Living” in Spring Awakening, and just as amazing. The vocal arrangements by Mary-Mitchell Campbell were fantastic (especially in this song). The choreography by Matt Williams was just as interesting and angst-ridden.

Then, we are given insight to Carrie’s (Molly Ranson) thoughts when she sings, “And the world will open its eyes and for once the whole world will recognize, Carrie…” in the title song, “Carrie”. The audience discovers that she knows she’s a little different from her peers, but the only thing she wants is to be normal and accepted, something that everyone can empathize with.

CARRIE marquee at the Lucille Lortel Theatre

The story is narrated (very infrequently, but always at the right times) by Sue Snell (Christy Altomare) who is the only survivor from the prom nightmare. Sue wanted to help Carrie and stop the bullying so she gets her boyfriend, Tommy Ross (Derek Klena) to ask her to the prom instead of taking Sue. Tommy has a soft heart and agrees to do it because he’s in love with Sue. Their duet, “You Shine” at the beginning of Act 2 was fantastic.

Of course, you can’t forget how Carrie’s mother, Margaret White, (Marin Mazzie) fits into all of this. Carrie goes home after the “locker room incident” and tries to tell her mother what had happened, but instead she banishes Carrie to her room and basically tells her to get the devil out of her. Mazzie’s intensity was unbelievable. The levels of emotion that Mazzie goes through during the show is indescribable. White’s character has been hurt by men, but confused by religion, and is so afraid that she shelters and manipulates her daughter so much that she’s one of the reasons that Carrie has been tortured so much at school. Yet, Margaret foresees the potential nightmare at the school prom and forbids Carrie to go, but Carrie is finding a new found independence and self-worth so she decides to go to the prom anyway. Mazzie sings a heart-wrenching ballad, “When There’s No One” after Carrie leaves for the prom. (I couldn’t help but think of Mazzie singing, “I Miss the Mountains” in Next to Normal.) Mazzie is pure genius and weirdly enough, (because she isn’t in a lot of the show) she’s the glue that holds the whole production together.

All of the main and supporting characters were amazing, including the bitchy Chris Hargensen (Jeanna De Waal) and her loser boyfriend, Billy Nolan (Ben Thompson) both from the recently closed, American Idiot. Carmen Cusack, as the high school PE teacher, Miss Lynn Gardner, brought such a caring and compassionate element to the show. Her lovely duet with Carrie, “Unsuspecting Hearts”, was beautiful, especially when it was reprised at the prom with Carrie standing in her beautiful pink gown.

The set, brilliantly designed by David Zinn, was very basic. With simple use of projections, it morphed into a classroom, to Carrie’s gothic-like home, to the locker room and then of course, the gym where the prom took place. Of course, I can’t forget the lighting design by Kevin Adams. You can tell that both of these elements were perfectly crafted together, because they were almost one-in-the-same. Now, if the show was to transfer to Broadway, then I would expect a completely different set, but for this particular space, it was perfect.

The main thing that blew my mind was the sound design by Jonathan Deans and vocal design by AnnMarie Milazzo. I don’t want to give too much away, but when the pig’s blood dropped at the prom the sound in that theatre was incredible. I’ve never experienced anything like that at live theatre before. It was thrilling. My senses were overloaded and the effect was chilling. (I get goose-bumps even thinking about it.) It was more effective than any amount of real blood that they could have used. I wish I could see it again, because I was so blown away by the sound effects that I almost couldn’t focus on what was happening (which was probably the point) because that’s when Carrie snapped and set fire to the gym. Again, it blew my mind.

I’m completely hooked; I’m Carrie’s biggest fan!

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