Sunday, October 6, 2019

“Carrie: The Musical” Takes Center Stage at OnStage Playhouse.

The cult musical “Carrie The Musical” opened on Broadway in 1988 to less than favorable reviews.  However if you are a fan of “Carrie” the movie, OnStage Theatre in Chula Vista is staging the musical version of it through Nov. 3rd. 

The musical pretty much follows the story of a group of empty- headed high school kids bullying the shite out of a vulnerable and frightened innocent…until she wasn’t.
Cast of "Carrie: The Musical" At OnStage Playhouse
If you are a fan of the movie be prepare to find less blood and more compassion for the harassed, harangued and hassled high school senior Carrie White, played with candor, naiveté and a lovely voice by Mary Grace Summer.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie and for the sake of a small disclosure, I’m not inclined to watch as many scary/horror movies now as I was in my younger and more fearless days. They just enter my head at night when I’m looking for more calming thoughts.

“Carrie: The Musical is based on the Stephen King novel and later the movie of the same name. “Carrie: The Musical” with book by Lawrence D. Cohen, lyrics by Dean Pitchford and music by Michael Gore officially opened on May 12th in 1212 and closed on May 15th after 5 performances. An off-Broadway and revival of the cult musical came in 2012. 

With all the hoopla surrounding the announcement of the “Carrie: The Musical” I was inclined to skip this one based on the above disclosure. But I know better than to miss out on a Teri Brown directed show.

Unfortunately I was as underwhelmed with the overall production as I was pleased with her choices in some casting and the ulterior motive for her decision to show this particular play at this time in our history and political atmosphere. In her notes she zeros in on the abuse, bullying and humiliation Carrie White lived with on a day -to day basis.

No doubt she’s different… but how? She’s pretty (OK she wears the same dress every day and at 17 knows nothing about her menstrual period), she’s shy, she doesn’t feel comfortable with the other students on many levels and there is no way she can stand up to her most brutal nemesis, Chris Hargensen (Sierra McMurtry). She becomes a virtual outcast among her classmates and sadly, they have no qualms in following Chris’ lead.  

At home she falls under the spell of her religiously crazed mother Margaret (Wendy Waddell) who manages to frighten the bejeezus out of her and prevents her from being a ‘normal’ teenager. When Carrie tells her mother of the onset of her menstrual period, her mother goes bonkers and locks Carrie up in some sort of a confessional sacrificial box surrounded by candles and books. She’s held there overnight.
Mary Grace Summer 
Some help comes in the form of her P.E. teacher, Miss Gardner (Lenelle Wylie) and classmate who feels the love, Sue Snell (Lauren Ashley). Sue is secure in the fact that she has a steady and kind boyfriend, Tommy Ross (Jake Strohl) who would do anything for her. Both Sue and Tommy try to friend her much to the chagrin of Chris who still doesn’t get it.

When Chris finds out that Carrie is going to the Sr. Prom with Tommy at Sue’s request, she goes viral and plans some nasty pranks like having a bucket blood fall on them. Soaked in blood, Carrie has found her telekinesis powers and all hell breaks loose.

There’s blood, there’s chaos and in between the dancing (Patrick Mayuyu) and a score of about twenty or so musical numbers keeps the running time at a little over two hours.  Most lyrics were difficult to follow as the too loud -recorded sound track made it impossible to understand most of the lyrics especially in Act I.

The good news is that the lively and fully engaged cast participated and kept the production moving be it dancing, tormenting Carrie or singing particularly in the opening number “In” that pretty much set the tone for what was to come.

A powerful performance was turned in by Wendy Waddell as Carrie’s mom Margaret.  Her madness, appearance and overall demeanor, behavior, and expressions convinced that we have not seen enough of this talented actor in some time. She even had me convinced that she was in dire need of an exorcism.
Mary Grace Gardner in background, Wendy Waddell as Margaret
Lenelle Wylie as Miss Gardner the PE teacher showed enough strength and conviction on the part of negotiator and would be advocate for Carrie lends credence for her being there.

Lauren Ashley’s Sue, who was instrumental in changing the dynamics for Carrie to go to the prom stood out both vocally and convincingly as she changed her attitude mid stream to change the errors of her way. (I couldn’t help myself on that one.)

Of the young men, Jake Strohl’s, (“Spring Awakening”) Tommy whose posture and unassuming poise is the antithesis of most leading men, impressed so much in his gentleness, soft voice and genuine concern for Carrie at the dance, he could have been my date.
Mary Grace Summer and Wendy Waddell
He never once put her in a compromising position. In fact he was so patient with her that in turn put her at ease.  She looked more beautiful in transformation (Ryan Dietrich designed the costumes) than any of the other seniors on deck.

Strong in her role as Chris, Sierra McMurtry, did what she was supposed to do as the anti-hero; she stirred up as much dust and venom about Carrie that her followers i.e. the rest of the seniors, were afraid to criticize what she was doing. And…was effectively on target and had no regrets or remorse. (Sound familiar?)  

Assisting in the production are: Martin Martiarena, Musical Director, Charles Peters, special effects, set Design, Duane McGregor, Lighting design, Kevin “Blax” Burroughs and sound design Jennifer Peters and Javier Piñon.

With all good intentions and proving her craft a successful director, Brown did the best she could with a flawed score. There’s a blood prank that unleashes Carries psychic powers, windows open by themselves, wind swirls in and the high school gym looks like it was struck by a tornado (Chris Peters) causing some excitement from the audience.

Confession: I did have to cover my eyes when Margaret’s knife hung over Carrie…  and the audience, on opening night, composed of many of “Carrie” devotees ate it up.

If you are a fan of the occult, conspiracy theory’s or whatever alternative narrative strikes you  best “Carrie: The Musical: will be playing through Nov. 3rd. 

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Nov. 3rd
Organization: OnStage Theatre
Phone: 619-291-7787
Production Type: Musical
Where: Third Ave. Chula Vista, CA 91910
Ticket Prices: $25.00
Venue: OnStage Theatre
Photo: Daren Scott

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