Give heaps of credit to Egads! Theater Company for producing and presenting the Kansas City debut of Carrie–The Musical, based on the movie, Carrie, that was based on horror novel specialist, Stephen King’s original script.
Carrie–The Musical represents a massive shift from Egads! in that it is a dramatic piece and remains true to the Off-Broadway script and avoids any sense of camp, that many Egads! shows produce so well. Carrie–The Musical comes to Kansas City’s Off Center Theater at a perfect time for a horror-story-based musical–Halloween season.
Carrie–The Musical retells the story but from the memory of Sue Snell. The musical follows as close to the film version with music and dance added. The Egads! version works hard to create the horror of the original written words, but the choppiness of the script handcuffs the show. Another problem comes in that the Broadway version used a lot of video projections that Egads! cannot recreate. Instead, Steven Eubank developed his own concept of the show and it works well but a lot of the horror aspect does not come to the forefront.
A very talented and devoted cast works hard to overcome the weaknesses of the script. Director Steven Eubank created his own concept of the show to help add to the drama and keep the show from falling into the “campy” genre.
Eubank uses a minimal set with no projection and makes the sets as dark and prison-like as possible. Sue seems to be telling the story from a mental institution or jail setting. The school, he said, imprisons the students. Carrie’s house represents her imprisonment from her mother’s overbearing protection. Mental illness imprisons the mind of Carrie’s mother. Eubank uses the isolation of each area to highlight the darkness of the piece.
“Regarding the overall concept,” Eubank said, “we wanted to capture the story of Carrie through the eyes of Sue Snell, our narrator, and make it feel as relevant as possible to a contemporary teen crowd. We wanted to create a somber, prison-like atmosphere of memories both entertaining and tragic; "prison" because the students are imprisoned at school, they are imprisoned by the expectations of their teens, parents and professors, Carrie is imprisoned at home, and Sue is imprisoned by the memory of this tragic tale. The hope was to give the material a studio environment that would truly feature the talent of the cast and the potency of the music.”
And the casting was phenomenal. Eubank selected a cast of singing actors and fielded a bevy of wonderful voices. Each actor created a realistic persona to help make the musical work.
The Kansas City cast features Chelsea Anglemyer (Carrie), Tara Varney (Margaret White), Lyndsey Agron (Miss Gardner), Megan Herrera (Sue Snell), Stefanie Weinecke (Chris Hargensen), Christopher Carlson (Tommy Ross), and Samuel Parrish (Billy Nolan). The cast also includes: Daniel Beeman, Jeff Berger, Emma Carter, Christiana Coffey, Coleman Crenshaw, Shelby Floyd, Michael Golliher, Emmy Hadley, and Seth Jones.
Egads! version of Carrie–The Musical entertains the audience. The show allows them to remember the movie or written word (if anyone did read the book). The pluses of the production outweigh any negatives, for sure. As a stand alone show, the production works and provides good entertainment for the Halloween season.
Carrie–The Musical did well enough Off Broadway to mount a Broadway opening, only to close after five performances, suffering the same problems as other musicals created after a successful movie. Audiences expect to see the movie but live action limitations force changes that just do excite the viewers. Of note are two recent musicals from movies that came to Kansas City last summer, Footloose and Flashdance.
“Carrie–The Musical, was yanked from public after its infamous 1988 Broadway production--which cost $8 million-- closed after only five performances,” Barbara Eubank, said. “After reassurance that no one would laugh at Carrie again, the show's original authors joined with director Stafford Arima and MCC Theatre for a completely reworked and fully re-imagined 2012 version of the story.”
A redeeming factor of the show concerns the current topic of bullying. Carrie represents the underdog. Schoolmates bully her. Girls in P.E. bully her. At home, her misguided mother bullies her. Carrie, the consummate underdog needs a way to shine. Shine, she does--well more like an explosion. All that pent up anger and pain surface in telekinesis powers.
Carrie White is a misfit. Carrie–The Musical tackles the topic of high school bullying and toxic family relationships. For that reason alone Carrie–The Musical is a good choice to see. The show opens the dialogue about bully behavior and can lead to serious discussions.
“While Carrie has both sweet and quirky aspects, there is so much more to this character,”Chelsea Anglemyer, said. “I had to think about her past and how she has dealt with her home life growing up with a crazed, overbearing mother and how that has affected her emotionally. The Carrie I have created is more relatable and likable in my opinion. She is awkward because of her upbringing and being ostracized by her peers, yet I gave her qualities that are tragically adorable and make her quite endearing.”
Chelsea Anglemyer, portrays the heroine of the story, Carrie. She develops a strong and likable character, as does Megan Herrera as Sue, the narrator. Both ladies possess strong stage presence and understand their characters’ motivations. Representing goodness of the masculine gender, Christopher Carlson made Tommy Ross into a kind and likeable character bent on helping his girlfriend undo the pain she unthinkingly caused.
Contrast that with the evil forces in the show in the form of Margaret White, craftily portrayed by Tara Varney; Chris Hargensen, the ultimate bully, played by Stefanie Weinecke, and Billy Nolan, Chris’ partner in revenge, portrayed by Samuel Parrish. The three positive characters contrast well with the three forces of evil. Steven Eubank did a great job of keeping the reigns on the villains to make them relevant in the current setting.
“Margaret White does horrible things,” Tara Varney said, “but she feels she has no choice but to do them, out of her deep love and devotion for her daughter and her daughter's eternal soul. She does not rejoice in her actions. They are very difficult for her. But in her world, she does what she must do in order save her daughter.”
Egads! Theater Company does a great job of presenting Carrie–The Musical. While the production and show attract a select audience, the acting, the singing, the music, the chance to relive the story–all combined create an enjoyable 2-hour escape from the reality of the present.
Director Steven Eubank leads the creative team with associate director Dustin West. They are joined by Kevin Bogan (musical director), Tiffany Powell (choreographer), Jeff Eubanks (sets and sound), Alex Perry (sets and lights), Courtney Perry (costumes), and Caitlin Hall (props).
Carrie--The Musical, book by Lawrence D. Cohen, music by Academy Award Winner Michael Gore and lyrics by Academy Award Winner Dean Pitchford, opened Fri., Oct. 4 at the Off Center Theatre -- Crown Center and runs through Sat. Nov. 2. For tickets and information, patrons can call the box office at (816) 842-9999 or visit: egadstheatre.com.