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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Carrie On

Carrie is the ultimate party-pooper or, as my souvenir cap reads, on the other hand: "Carrie: she's not like other girls." Today, I ventured to the Lucille Lortel Theatre to see the revival of the notorious musical, Carrie, based on the Stephen King novel. Notorious because, when mounted on Broadway in 1988, it became one of the biggest flops and commercial disasters in all Broadway history.

Six years ago, I saw a fabulously high-camp, non-musical stage version of Carrie starring drag queen Sherry Vine in the title role. The Theatre Couture production, done on a shoe-string budget with an $18 ticket price, was hilarious and the threadbare effects (including the multiple flipping over of the car that had nasty Sue Snell and Billy Nolan inside) were innovative and fun. The climactic f/x of the 2012 revival, on a larger stage, at a $55 ticket price, were less impressive, largely relying on projected images and stage lighting, including a strobe. Tacky.

Carrie's subtext is about the guilt, shame and fear of menstruation. Call it a period piece, then. So, from the starting gate, this is unlikely fare for musical theater. But, it certainly is appropriate material for an operatic score, I feel the pop tunes provided by Michael Gore sound banal when given Carrie's classic Greek tragedy-like themes and plotting. Gore, who wrote the songs for the movie, Fame, and who is Fame-ous for scoring numerous films (and for being Leslie Gore's brother), revamped the musical numbers from the original staging for this production, but to little avail.

The cast, however, was collectively wonderful, giving this noble but floundering production that tries to redesign a silk purse from a sow's ear (talk about your pig's blood!) some Glee-like oomph. Carrie is played with conviction by Molly Ranson and her singing is equally captivating. On the other hand, Marin Mazzie's singing is very admirable, but I doubt her Margaret White (the mom-from-Hell) is going to erase iconic movie memories of Piper Laurie in the role. Mazzie needs to camp it and amp it up, honeys! I mean, you can't go too big playing Margaret White, especially nowadays, when there are Tea Party zealots in real life who are even more over-the-top than this character! Some Piper-like scenery-chewing is essential here.

Additionally, there was some nice eye candy onstage who kept me from being bored. Derek Klena (as Tommy Ross) and Wayne Alan Wilcox (as the teacher, Mr Stephens) kept my undivided interest whenever they strutted their stuff under the proscenium. I must say, I distinctly recall craning in my seat to get a better view whenever they appeared.

As far as Broadway flops go, I've seen worse. The relatively recent musical, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, for example. But the matinee crowd seemed happy and the intermission saw a busy merchandise stand. And I, for one, am proudly wearing my Carrie cap as I type this tonight.

Carrie: the Musical: the Movie! Why not?

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