Carrie: the Musical – 5th Wall Theatre succeeds where past productions had failed
With this adaptation of Stephen King’s classic horror novel, 5th Wall demonstrated yet again that it is not afraid to take risks and tackle controversial, edgy, and provocative material.
Carrie tells the much-loved story of misfit Carrie White [Brittany D. Simmons], a young high school girl whose over-zealous, religious mother [Andrea Rivette] has kept her from acquiring the social skills needed to associate with her peers.
Carrie is relentlessly, cruelly bullied. When she gets her first period while in the shower after gym class, the other girls ridicule her, yelling “period, period, period,” over and over while throwing tampons at her.
It dawns on Miss Gardner [Katrinah Carol Lewis] that Carrie has made it to 17 without any idea of the birds and the bees. Gardner forms a fragile friendship with the tormented girl providing for the show’s most tender moments.
Carrie’s revelation that she is now menstruating causes her spiritually tormented mother to come unhinged which plays a huge role in the show’s shocking denouement.
Her classmates’ cruel reactions provoke Carrie to an anger that unleashes theretofore unknown telekinetic powers.
Sue Snell [Emily Sargeant] participates in the locker room taunting, but is haunted by her conscience. She convinces boyfriend Tommy [Sean Dunavant] to take Carrie to prom instead of her. Her good intentions lead to perhaps one of the most famous and menacing prom scenes in literary history.
Despite sold out theaters, scathing reviews hampered the 1988 Broadway production which led to backers pulling out at the last minute and the New York Times calling it “the most expensive quick flop in Broadway history.”
Now, with a revised score and script, a 2012 attempt to rescue Carrie the Musical from oblivion proved to be short-lived as well.
I admire director Billy Christopher Maupin’s guts in bringing this much-plagued show to Richmond. I concur with those longing to bring it back to life, and applaud Maupin for his faith in this musical gem. The score [Michael Gore], the lyrics [Dean Pitchford], and the story [Lawrence Cohen] are heart-wrenching and Simmons’ portrayal of the titular role is fiery and breathtaking. Veterans Rivette and Carol Lewis bring strong performances as well.
There are a handful of newcomers that offer promising performances too, notably Grace Minicks and Tyler Nobles as the show’s cruel and vengeful “it” couple, Chris and Billy.
5th Wall’s opening night performance was not without its own problems. Lighting issues caused a significant delay in starting the show, and lack of body mics on a few of the key characters, notably Sue and Tommy, whose voices didn’t quite have the heft of the show’s leads made it difficult to hear at times.
Overall, the strength of 5th Wall’s production of Carrie outweighed its minor glitches. The story is just as relevant today as when King first published the novel in 1974.
I intend to see it again.
Carrie the Musical continues through August 8, 2015 at RVA Events Space located in Plant Zero at 1 E. 3rd Street.
Top image via 5th Wall Facebook
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
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