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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Theatre review: Carrie The Musical is full of surprises

The Fighting Chance Productions presentation of Carrie The Musical is full of surprises.  Here are ten.

1. History doesn’t always get it right. As one of Broadway’s biggest busts, one could easily be forgiven any skepticism, but the biggest surprise of the night is that a musical adaptation of this iconic book, and more famous movie, actually works.

2. More teen angst, less telekinesis. Lawrence Cohen’s book feels more like a teen coming of age story than one of horror.  And that turns out to be the scripts biggest strength.  Realizing that it could never compete with the movie, or even the original Stephen King novel, Cohen relies on telling his story as a teen drama without any of the irony one might expect based on its source material.

3. Carrie White just wants us all to get along. There is an innocence laced with hope in Renae Miller’s portrayal of Carrie that is heartfelt and real.  When Tommy asks her to the prom there is a genuine joy, mixed with apprehension.  Miller dances circles around Spacek, with a layered performance that goes deep.

4. Margaret White is just misunderstood. Any parent will tell you that raising kids is tough and they do the best they can with what they’ve got.  As the religious nut that is quick to lock her daughter in the cupboard, she is a metaphor for what every parent really wants: to protect their children from the harshness of the real world.  It’s just that Carrie’s powers are way more intense than the usual screaming match or slamming of a bedroom door.  Sabrina Prada does a great job portraying this single mom trying to do her best and has one of the best voices of the night.  “I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance” is a highlight.

5. The whole is not always the sum of its parts. Often in amateur musical theatre productions the ensemble will be the show’s biggest strength.  In this production though it is the opposite, with the group numbers largely unintelligible.  Grace Newson’s choreography is solid, but you’ll be hard pressed to understand any of Dean Pitchford’s lyrics.

6. There are stars here. Along with terrific performances from Miller and Prada, Riley Qualtieri brings a quiet strength to his Tommy and Emily Canavan is a powerhouse as Chris, the student out for revenge.  Keri Smith brings a tender guiding influence as the gym teacher, Miss Gardner, with “Unsuspecting Hearts” another highlight.

7. The special effects work. If you have seen the film, a lot of its impact as a horror movie comes from the special effects.  Who can forget Sissy Spacek standing on the gym stage as fire and electricity consumes her fellow students, or the knives she sends her mother’s way in another fit of rage. Recreating those scenes for the stage was beyond what even the original Broadway production’s $8 million dollar budget could achieve, let alone on stage at the Jericho Arts Centre.  But what was accomplished by way of special effects actually works.

8. The sound sucked. Okay this one really isn’t a surprise as sound issues continue to be this company’s biggest downfall. Enough said.

9. The payoff lacks tension. We all know it is coming, but the penultimate scene as Carrie is drenched in pig’s blood just doesn’t have the same impact of its more famous film cousin.  While director Ryan Mooney may have been going for an element of surprise as the blood drops without warning, there is something to be said about anticipation.

10. See #1.  While it will definitely not give you a Halloween scare like a viewing of the 1976 Brian De Palma film, for what it is, Carrie The Musical is a pleasant surprise.

Carrie The Musical.  Music by Michael Gore. Lyrics by Dean Pitchford. Book by Lawrence D Cohen. Based on the novel by Stephen King.  Directed by Ryan Mooney.  A Fighting Chance Productions presentation on stage at the Jericho Arts Centre until October 25.  Tickets are available online at Tickets Tonight.  Visit for more information.

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