Friday, March 2, 2012

Carrie @ The Lucille Lortel Theatre

The only thing worse than saying Mac_ _ _ _ in a theatre, is saying the word Carrie.  That is until now!  The updated version of the classic Broadway flop is back, and has a score to settle with all those who ever doubted her!  With some new revisions in the writing and score, the creative team of Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford, and Lawrence D. Cohen prove that a story about a girl with special powers who eventually blows up a whole town is a great idea for a musical.  Based off of the book by Stephen King, Carrie is back and out to kill the memories of so many years ago.
It begins as your classic high school tale - different girl in different clothes gets picked on.  Her name in this story is Carrie White.  Like all odd balls, Carrie has a family history that is less than normal; her mother Margaret believe fully in the word of the Bible.  Living in a holy house means that parts of the anatomy and changes in form are never discussed; therefore, when Carrie gets her first period in the locker room after gym class, it is the perfect time for Chris, Sue, and the rest of the class to attack a very frightened Carrie.  Miss Gardner runs to the aid of her student and makes sure that the other girls apologize for their actions; however, when Chris refuses, she is banned from prom.  This punishment sets a rage in Chris that is not to be messed with.  Soon Carrie will be humiliated and the whole town will be sorry.  Why one might ask - well, Carrie has just learned that she has telekinetic powers.
The mother-daughter relationship from hell is back and better than ever with two new star powers taking the spotlight.  Molly Ranson (Jerusalem) takes on the title character and not only blows away the school, but audience’s minds as well.  While Carrie White might be small, Ranson is larger than life.  Her ability to capture the essence and moods of this character is impeccable.  Carrie might get picked on and bullied at home and school, but on the inside she is a force to be reckoned with; Ranson brings this energy to the stage showing how truly human this special girl is.  The pain at home can be a bit much when your Bible loving mother is so brilliantly portrayed by Marin Mazzie (Next to Normal).  Approaching the role of Margaret White must be a daunting task - how can one keep a woman so crazed in reality?  Mazzie does it with ease and beauty, belting out some of the original scores most famous songs, including “And Eve Was Weak.”  Separate these two women are incredible, and together they literally make the stage burn to the ground.  The chemistry and passion behind the performances was so truthful and amazing to watch.  Around the White family is an ensemble that nicely pulls the story forward, and leaves time for a few others to shine.  Christy Altomare (Spring Awakening national tour) does a lovely job bringing the iconic character of Sue Snell, the lone survivor of the attack, back to the stage; along side with Derek Klena (off-Broadway debut) has her boyfriend, and soon to be prom date to Carrie, Tommy Ross.  Altomare and Klena worked really nicely together bringing this dark piece the light hearted air that it needs to stay connected to reality.  Also in the spotlight is Jeanna De Waal (American Idiot) as Chris Hargensen, the ‘it girl.’  While De Waal’s voice a bit too pop-like for the score, she did a great job keeping the teenage drama queen fresh and realistic, a role that is too often made cartoony.  The rest of the ensemble did wonderful work driving the piece forward, and bring this cult classic back into the New York scene.
While the book by Lawrence D. Cohen (TNT’s Nightmares & Dreamscapes) has been re-worked and the music and lyrics by writing team Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford (team behind the hit film Fame) has been re-mastered with new material, Carrie is still not perfect.  The dialogue and lyrics can still feel cheesy and forced at times; however, the design and direction of the show swoop in to save the day, and make Carrie a fresh, new, and exciting piece of theatre.  Led by director Stafford Arima (Altar Boyz), this recreation is dark, twisted, and a visual feast for the eyes.  Scenic designer David Zinn (Seminar) creates the perfect dreary high school - appearing to almost be ripped out of a black-and-white horror film.  This blank canvas allows the masters of lighting and projections to create a world unlike anything scene on stage before.  Kevin Adams (American Idiot) uses skillful lighting to create a world of color in a town that is all black-and-white.  Sven Ortel (Woman on the Verge…) brings the world of this piece into full realization using projections that appear to have been ripped right out of a black-and-white picture book from hell.  Together these artists join forces for the final scene of destruction that literally leaves the audience in shock!  This production team is exactly what this musical needed in order to be taken off of the ‘disaster list’ and onto the ‘must see list.’
There is nothing to fear when it comes to this ‘king’ sized revival of Carrie!  Keeping the piece completely camp free, MCC Theatre has made this piece feel vibrant, fresh, and, most importantly, human.  Deep down, Carrie is the tale of a girl who is different and the conditions that made her that way - a story that almost anyone can relate too - standing out because of that good Stephen King twist!  With a recent extension, Carrie is finally getting the run that it deserves - she is back, and this time means business!

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