Feature

Carrie

The musical version of Stephen King’s novel has been reworked to eliminate the original show's campiest moments.

Lucille Lortel Theatre
New York
(212) 352-3101

The musical version of Stephen King’s novel about a misfit teenager with telekinetic powers is legendary for all the wrong reasons, said David Rooney in The Hollywood Reporter. Its 1988 debut, staged with a comically inappropriate mix of “operatic bombast and ’80s vulgarity,” unleashed a critical bloodbath more gruesome than the climactic prom scene in the 1976 movie. Yet composer Michael Gore, lyricist Dean Pitchford, and playwright Lawrence D. Cohen saw something in the show worth salvaging, and so reworked it to eliminate the campiest moments. Unfortunately, their pared-down version still inspires one thought: “Carrie was never meant to be a musical.”

The creators’ revisions to the show “certainly make it better,” said Robert Feldberg in the Bergen County, N.J., Record. They were wise to cut “Out for Blood,” a notorious number during which frenzied teens, preparing to humiliate the outcast Carrie, slaughter pigs offstage and make war paint of the animals’ blood. Much of the gore and many supernatural elements are now gone, converting a horror classic into an “edgily told tale of bullying and revenge” in which the bullies are armed with cellphones and social media. The show’s main weakness now is that it cuts constantly between worlds—Carrie’s school and a home life dominated by her “fanatical, sex-hating” mother—yet those worlds never connect.

Worse is that this “exceedingly sober revival” takes itself far too seriously, said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. Director Stafford Arima stages the show “in the best possible taste,” when good taste is the last thing a horror story needs. The cast are mostly much better than their tedious material, though Molly Ranson’s Carrie, “whose anger is on the surface from the beginning,” doesn’t convincingly develop from abused waif to telekinetic revenge-seeker. When Marin Mazzie, as Carrie’s mother, sings, there’s a moment in which we glimpse a “ghastly poetry” lurking behind these characters’ prosaic fears. But in its current form, this show is mostly worse than bad—it’s boring.

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