The Blog is Back!!
This time with the accent on all things Theatre and Books. To start things off I’m combining my love of theatre and books with a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the musical CARRIE based on the classic Stephen King novel.
It was 1988 and I was still trying to make my living as an actor. I would come to my senses in a few years and realize my calling as an artist was on the page, not the stage, but at the time I was having fun and doing my best. I had just finished my acclaimed performance as The Narrator in the musical BABY at The Attic Ensemble in Jersey City, New Jersey. Acclaimed is my adjective and since there was nary a review no one can fight me on it. It was a really fun production of a lesser-known musical that deserves more recognition. Unlike CARRIE. Thanks to a very short Broadway run, being the biggest flop on Broadway at the time, and the subject of a book about the all-time worst musicals, CARRIE has developed a cult following that rivals any other musical that has come before or after. And I am a member of that cult.
I went to see the original production of CARRIE while I was in BABY and a few days later went to see a production of MACBETH with Christopher Plummer and Glenda Jackson on, what turned out to be the final performance of CARRIE. Let’s just say that had I known that, I would’ve given up on Chris and Glenda (who, by the way, looked like the hated sharing the stage together) and seen CARRIE one more time. It was that good. And that bad.
Most of you know the history of the musical – the hypersexualized chorus boys and girls who were in their 30s trying to pass as high school students and wearing leather and white toga outfits (don’t ask); the pig ballet that opened Act II; the boos that accompanied the applause; and the Greek columns and staircase that were the main parts of the set because the director allegedly said he wanted it to look like GREASE, the musical, and someone thought he meant Greece, the country. I have no idea if that’s true, but I want it to be so I’m spreading the rumor.
But mixed in with all the absurdity was some of the most glorious pop music ever found in a Broadway score and two incredible performances by Linzi Hateley as Carrie and Betty Buckley as her mother, Mrs. White. Fun fact – Betty played Miss Gardner, the gym teacher, in the Brian DePalma movie. Fun fact #2 – The gym teacher’s name in the book is Miss Desjardin, which is kind of French for Gardner. I guess America wasn’t ready for a French gym teacher, but it was okay to pour pig’s blood on a virgin. Anyways, the voices of the two women are simply gorgeous and the melodies rapturous. Don’t take my word check this out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNGnKRIkPiE There are other clips on Youtube, but if you’re pressed for time start with the song And Eve Was Weak – it’s a showstopper! Betty Buckley belts out the lyrics while belting Carrie with a bible and then strikes a final pose the emulates Jesus on the cross. I mean what more do you want from a musical??
In 2012 the show was revived off-Broadway with a revamped book and some new songs. And while the show lacked fire power – and I mean that literally since the original show had pyrotechnics that were amazing – at least from my seat in the last row of the Virginia Theatre – it expanded the story to include more of the high school students and made Mrs. White less a crazed, religious zealot and more of a single mom with Daddy issues. And by Daddy, I mean God. Since the revival, the production is available for license and has had productions all over the country. And I’ve traveled far and wide to see many of them.
Why do I love the show? Well, the music is great, the story about the ultimate outsider having the ultimate revenge is both classic and revolutionary, and she’s telekinetic. And wouldn’t we all like to be telekinetic for just one day? I personally wouldn’t burn down my high school because I absolutely loved high school and would do it all over again in a heartbeat – in 1980 of course, not today – but I wouldn’t mind having the mind power to fold my own laundry or cook dinner without lifting a finger. Or turning on the TV without having to fumble with the remote. Think of the parlor tricks! Think of the fun you could have! Almost as much fun as remembering that I’m one of the lucky few to have seen the original Broadway production. And one of the fewer who can recite the lyrics.
So happy anniversary to Stephen King’s first baby – Carrie – and her bloody legacy.