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Teen angst turns telekinetic in Beck's 'Carrie'

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Carrie the Musical at the Beck Center

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Teen angst turns telekinetic in the Beck Center for the Arts’ production of “Carrie”, running on the Mackey Main Stage now through March 9, 2014.

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Produced in cooperation with the Baldwin Wallace (BW) Music Theatre program, “Carrie” is adapted from the bestselling novel by Stephen King, which tells the tale of a social outcast named Carrie White. Carrie is unpopular, never having fit in within her small town of Chamberlain, Maine. Not only is she bullied by the “cool” kids at school, she’s repressed and demonized at home by her fanatically religious mother. Clearly no good can come of this.

“Carrie” has had many incarnations over the years, most notably with the original 1976 movie starring Sissy Spacek, and then with the 1988 Broadway musical, which would earn its place in theatre legend as “the most expensive quick flop in Broadway history,” according to The New York Times.

The Beck Center / BW collaboration fares a bit better. Directed by Victoria Bussert, director of Music Theatre at BW, the production is a terrifying cautionary tale about bullying, and shows a sinister manifestation of Carrie’s coming of age. The show culminates in a series of unfortunate events that lead up to a cathartic and chaotic senior prom. As always, Bussert did not disappoint in her casting and directorial choices.

Caitlin Houlahan embodies the title character of Carrie White. She is presented as a plain, unassuming girl who doesn’t quite fit in. Her mannerisms are quiet and out-of-the-way, but hopeful and innocent. Her transformation from mousy victim to beautiful predator is sublime, as are her vocals.

Katherine DeBoer is a passionate and disturbing Margaret White. As Carrie’s mom, we see her in extremes – religious fanatic, raving victim, domineering parent. Her electric portrayal makes a rock look like a great mother in comparison to Margaret White. Truly horrifying.

Sara Masterson is a powerful narrator as Sue Snell, the unwitting catalyst for the final events of prom night. Her earnest portrayal of Sue is initially a bit catty towards Carrie, but becomes contrite, friendly and well-intended. Masterson’s honest inner turmoil comes out in her desire to help Carrie, and in her powerful vocals.

Colton Ryan is an adorable and likeable Tommy Ross. He “shines” as as Sue’s boyfriend and sings like an angel. Genna-Paige Kanago is a witch as Chris Hargensen, creating a tornado of tyranny you’d never want to get in front of. Jodi Dominick is a caring and supportive Miss Gardner, providing the right amount of adult supervision and open-hearted guidance to the students.

Musical Director Nancy Maier has done a great job with Michael Gore’s music and Dean Pitchford’s lyrics, bringing the band and the cast together in harmony. Although none of the musical numbers really stand out as pieces you'll be humming on the way home, they are listenable and interesting. "You Shine" between Tommy and Sue is one of the most touching numbers of note.

Gregory Daniels’ choreography is powerful, giving the cast a great workout. Raw energy shows off high school angst as the company works with the sideline-dance-team-feeling movements. It would be nice, however, to see some variance in the style and dance presentation – most of it takes place with the whole cast standing in a block and not moving away much from their given positions.

Kudos go to Russ Borski (Lighting Designer) for his epic ambiance, and Richard B. Ingraham (Sound Designer) for letting us hear every moment of horror.

Jordan Janota (Scenic Designer) definitely keeps the “where” in the gym, with a set that looms for the entire show and never really lets you leave the gym. Aimee Kluiber (Costume Designer) shows a knack for dressing teenage characters who love tight-fighting clothes with lots of stretched materials. And a shout out goes to Joseph Carmola (Technical Director) for keeping it all together.

“Carrie” runs now through March 9, 2014 at the Beck Center. For ticket, visit www.beckcenter.org or call Customer Service at 216.521.2540, ext. 10. Beck Center for the Arts is located at 17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood and offers free onsite parking.

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