Aired on KSDS-FM on 10/11/19
RUN DATES: 9/27/19 – 11/3/19
VENUE: OnStage Playhouse
Everyone knows about the horrors of high school. Stephen King famously turned high school into a horror story.
Then, in 1988, “Carrie” was made into a musical. It was a notorious flop on Broadway, costing more than $7 million and closing after only five performances. But it has gained cult status, especially among young performers.
So it’s appropriate that several cast members at OnStage Playhouse come from Grossmont College.
“Carrie the Musical” is a musically and dramatically tricky piece, and it requires special effects. The girl has telekinetic abilities, so she has to make objects move from a distance. And there is that bucket of blood that pours over her at the prom.
If you haven’t read King’s first novel, or seen the 1976 movie, or the musical, here’s a quick rundown.
Carrie is an awkward, unpopular high school senior with an oppressive, paranoid, religious zealot for a mother. Bullied and ridiculed at school, Carrie ultimately uses her powers to take deadly revenge on everyone in her path.
Kudos to audacious OnStage and its former artistic director Teri Brown for taking it on. But it isn’t a walk in the park.
The score, by Michael Gore, is difficult to sing and strains the vocal range of many of the performers, who vary widely in singing and dancing expertise. The lyrics, by Dean Pitchford, are often simplistic and trite, and the clunky book, by Lawrence D. Cohen, told as a flashback report by a surviving high schooler, is choppy and episodic, plodding in the first act, eventful and rushed in the second.
The anti-bullying message is the main appeal. “What does it cost to be kind?” is the repeated — and important — refrain. Its cautionary corollary is ‘What does it cost to be cruel?’ The answer should be a warning to all bullies, cyber- or in-the-flesh, teenage or adult.
In case you’re worried, as I was, “Carrie the Musical” isn’t scary, or particularly gory, but what it has to say about religious fanaticism and unbridled revenge might just get your heart pumping.
©2019 PAT LAUNER