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CARRIE is kind of perfect for musical adaptation. It’s a
tale—one of high school anguish, alienation, bullying and the onset of
womanhood—in which emotion and tension run high on a constant basis. And in the
tradition of musicals, in which when it all becomes too much too bear, the
proceedings break out into song, Carrie White’s telekinetic powers arrive in
bursts much the same, headed toward a show-stopping finale of a different sort.
CARRIE is also notorious. The initial run of its musical
incarnation closed merely three days after its official opening, setting the
many that never got to witness it up for certain disaster.
Currently playing at the MCC Theatre (121 Christopher St),
and presented by the Lucille Lortel Theatre, CARRIE THE MUSICAL is now revised
and reworked, and most certainly not a disaster; a bit of a shame as you may
walk away with a larger impression if it was.
What’s refreshing, first and foremost, is that CARRIE’s
revival is not one tinged with irony. Regardless of its end product, the entire
company is a hardworking one, and looking to earnestly bring this story to life
without a hint, wink or nod towards the show’s torrid history. Its stars, Molly
Ranson and esteemed stage veteran Marin Mazzie are also tremendous in their
portrayals of the afflicted teen and her fanatic mother. Sadly, their half of
the story is largely ignored in favor of the high school one, which isn’t
nearly as compelling, nor a showcase of talent.
While Jeanna de Waal, who essays the entitled and cruel
instigator Chris Hargensen shines, the rest of her classmates are either
relegated to mostly background work and quick snips or—in the case of the other
principal high school roles—broad and uninteresting representations of
underwritten kids. Case in point, Ben Thompson, who takes the role of Chris’
dipshit of a boyfriend, is a grating presence, and not because his
disappearance into a smarmy bad kid is so convincing (it’s not).
Where CARRIE really suffers, however, is its seeming
disinterest in finding the real darkness that lies underneath. Stafford Arima’s
clever, minimalist staging is commendable (projectors are put to plentiful use),
but the rest of his direction is entirely on-the-nose and often highlighting
the blandess of the production, not the unique, violent and sad story it’s
attempting to tell. The show’s framing device, which sees Sue Snell recount the
sequence of events to interrogators is entirely useless, and only serves to hit
you over the head with stated sentiments that should be, and often are,
readable in the cast’s faces.
The choreography is entirely too familiar as well, forcing
the actors to go through the motions of what could be strong numbers,
especially the famed prom massacre, whose “dance of death” is well-intentioned,
but needed to feel enormous, violent, dangerous and well, scary, to work.
There’s a long history of subversive, provoking, exciting
and socially conscious musicals that exist, and given all that it entails, it’s
sad to see CARRIE drop the ball on being any of the aforementioned.
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