I would like to start with the disclaimer that I have never read Stephen King’s Carrie. Nor have I watched any of its many adaptations in film and media. So, all I knew walking into the Regals Musical Society’s production of CARRIE the Musical was what I had absorbed from the general pop culture conversations. There’ll be a girl named Carrie, blood (in some sort of big capacity), and of course because this was the musical version, some good ol’ singing.
For those, like me, unfamiliar with everything Carrie, or anyone who needs a quick refresher, the story follows a teenage misfit who is bullied by the popular kids at school. Things aren’t much better at home, where she lives with her emotionally abusive and extremely religious single mother. Carrie’s situation changes, however, when she discovers her telekinetic powers, culminating in a dramatic prom night.
CARRIE the Musical is faithful to this storyline. Following the updated 2012 off-Broadway format, framed as a flashback, beginning with Sue Snell (Hannah Fletcher) being interrogated by police, recounting the events that led up to aforementioned prom night. Fletcher portrays Sue with grace, as the nice ‘popular girl’ in juxtaposition to her ‘mean girl’ best friend, Chris Hargensen (Zoe Allsopp Lander), who gets banned from prom for failing to apologise to Carrie (Ebony Cooper). Unlike Chris, Sue feels guilty over her treatment of Carrie and attempts to make amends, which is met, understandably, by hostility and suspicion from Carrie herself. Eventually, she manages to convince her boyfriend, Tommy Ross (Michael Kilbane), to take Carrie to prom, while Chris concocts a revenge plan to put Carrie in her place.
The entire cast put on an engaging performance, though special commendation has to go to Ebony Cooper and Michele Lansdown’s portrayal of the terse power dynamics at play in the mother-daughter relationship of Carrie and Margaret White. Across the ensemble numbers — ‘A Night We’ll Never Forget’ was particularly catchy and got stuck in my head on my way home — and numerous duets and solos, the cast manages to build a subtle unease as the audience waits for the situation to turn south, with the staging and lights especially adding to the feeling. Kudos also has to go to the amazing band, led by musical director Thomas McCorquodale, who neatly and expertly tied the whole show together.
Even as someone who isn’t a big fan of horror, I can see the enduring appeal and relevance of Carrie as per its adaption in the musical. At its heart, it’s a very human story that questions what it takes for good people to do terrible things. And perhaps such explorations of humanity are true of the wider horror genre. Though I wish the musical spent more time exploring the dynamics between the different female characters – which it started to do, and then abandoned in the second half of the show – it was, overall, an easy and enjoyable watch. It’s even made me consider giving the original Carrie a read, and that makes it a winner in my books.