Entertainment » Theatre

Carrie The Killer Musical Experience

by Kevin Taft
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Oct 9, 2015
Misty Cotton and Emily Lopez
Misty Cotton and Emily Lopez  

The musical "Carrie" has had a long history, mostly in the negative. but not for the reasons the rumor-mill would have you believe. Having closed on Broadway in just three days back in the '80s (as a result of an inexperienced investor, not negative reviews), the show become an underground cult classic.

Over the years smaller productions have popped up in local community theatres and high schools, but it was the 2012 Off-Broadway production that brought it to the forefront again. That production team was partly successful for bringing "Carrie" back from the dead, but the small, toned-down version wasn't collaboration with the original creators so the interpretation suffered.

Cut to three years later and director Brady Schwind has opted to bring "Carrie The Killer Musical Experience" to life in a new and exciting way and has enlisted the help of original lyricist Dean Pitchford to help with the revamp. And what a revamp it is. After an initial run in La Mirada last Spring, the new, immersive version of "Carrie" complete with special effects and a moveable audience, feels like the definitive version that will forever be copied, but never duplicated.

What's even more surprising is that after a stellar run in April (in which I gave the show 5 stars) this slightly altered version now playing in the historic Los Angeles Theatre in downtown LA is even better! While most of the cast is the same including the spectacular two leads, the entire show feels like it has gelled even more and you can see how well the cast inhabits their roles.

The show itself has gotten tighter, funnier, and more thrilling. The final prom sequence (the part of the show you know the audience paid to see) is stunning and intense and manages to wow the audience while still firmly investing us in the characters.

I don't need to tell you the details of the story of "Carrie," but for those that might have avoided Stephen King's tale for the last 40 years, here are the basics. Carrie White (Emily Lopez) is a mousey, shy high-school student with a religious fanatic mother named Margaret (Misty Cotton) who knows her daughter is special (she has telekinetic powers) but also keeps a tight rein on her for fear the world at large will destroy her.

The kids at school all relentlessly tease her especially Chris (Valerie Rose Curiel) and her loser boyfriend Billy (Garrett Marshall). The one girl that takes pity on her is Sue Snell (Kayla Parker) and eventually Sue's boyfriend Tommy (Jon Robert Hall). And after a particularly embarrassing incident where Carrie is distraught when she gets her first period, Sue decides Carrie needs some joy in her life and begs her boyfriend to take Carrie to prom.

Of course, things don't go as planned and evil Chris decides to embarrass Carrie some more and we all know the story; pig's blood, rage and death -- all at prom.

This might not seem like the best story to put to music, but the legendary lyricist Dean Pitchford ("Footloose") and musician Michael Gore ("Fame") have crafted a collection of catchy songs that capture the pain of Carrie's world, the fanaticism of Carrie's mother, and the teenage angst of Carrie's high school class. It all works beautifully and for once the score of the show seems to have found its perfect cast.

Emily Lopez brings a heart-breaking sadness to Carrie, a girl who is so beaten down by other students and her smothering and mentally abusive mother, that she can't see her worth. What's lovely is the joy we do see within her and Lopez lets that shine through when she sings about wanting to be remembered ("Carrie") or how she will show up at Prom and have the night she finally deserves ("Why Not Me?").

Misty Cotton as Margaret is a true star. Her many power ballads bring the house down from "And Eve Was Weak," "Evening Prayers," (all duets with Lopez) to her final act "When There's No One." Every scene with her is spectacular and when the two get together it is genuine, theatre magic.

But there's more magic than the songs and the performers. While I need to point out the wonderful Parker as Sue (who is sort of the main character) and Curiel as bitchy Chris, the design team and director Schwind are the other stars. With the audience placed around the action, the show takes place in the gymnasium where, by the time the last Act comes around, becomes the prom itself.

Half the audience is front and center to the destruction, with four sets of bleachers actually spinning and moving with the action itself. Throughout the show, Carrie's powers are realized in nifty on-stage tricks that have candelabra's rising from a table, moving knick-knacks, an animated and descending Christ figure, numerous acts of destruction, and even a telekinetic fly through the air for one of the characters.

But what's wonderful about these crowd-pleasing touches is that they don't distract from the emotional core of the show. This is still a relatable story about bullying and religion gone wrong and that is never lost. For all the high-flying theatrics, the music and cast really are the standouts.

After every song by Lopez and Cotton there were hoots and hollers and extended applause. And it was well-deserved. This is "Carrie" done right. It might have taken 30 years to have the vision achieved, but this cast and crew have done it and they should be very, very proud. A Killer Musical Experience indeed.

"Carrie the Killer Musical Experience" runs through Nov. 15 at The Historic Los Angeles Theatre, 615 S. Broadway, Los Angeles. For tickets or information, visit www.experiencecarrie.com.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.


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