Carrie: The Musical – Bridewell Theatre

Well, it’s not as frightening as the motion picture (and given that both are based on a Stephen King novel, I don’t have a problem with that). Carrie the Musical, despite its title, tells the story from the perspective of Sue Snell (Ellie McWilliam), who is being questioned, apparently repeatedly, over the events that transpired on the night of the school prom. It’s a curious choice for a musical, as there isn’t a happy ending, to say the least. The end of the first half is rather anti-climactic, with the opening number of the second half an upbeat song featuring most of the characters – the kind of showtune that would send an audience into the interval with a feelgood factor, before the gory elements following thereafter.

Carrie: The MusicalThere are trigger warnings on display, and while some find pleasure in derision of such notices, I found them useful on this occasion – I didn’t have a pleasurable experience at school by any stretch of the imagination, and all the bullying portrayed on stage seemed credible, unsurprising, and indeed triggering. That isn’t a reason, of course, to mark the production down. On the contrary, the dramatisation of school life is impressive, and makes the eventual, albeit disproportionate, retribution from Carrie White (Sadie Kempner) not so much justifiable but comprehensible.

Most of the characters being high school students, there’s a youthful vigour to the production, and in the larger ensemble numbers, the sprightly choreography is accompanied by some excellent harmonies. The show doesn’t shy away from stereotypes, although some balance one another out, which works well for dramatic purposes. On one hand, there’s Chris Hargensen (Heather Daniel), who takes every opportunity to mock and criticise Carrie. On the other, Sue initially joins in the ‘fun’ but realises that such actions aren’t achieving anything worthy and sets about making amends.

The one character I couldn’t get my head around was Carrie’s mother Margaret (Nina Zendajas), for whom almost everything is a sin that will condemn Carrie to the eternal conscious torment of the damned. I suspect it’s a case of an undiagnosed mental disorder of some kind – what might look like a devout evangelical faith at face value is a very bizarre and paranoid outlook on everyday living.

Still, Zendajas does well in this production, convincingly putting the fear of God (as it were) into Carrie. Let’s just say she doesn’t hold back. Tasha Msanide’s Norma makes the most of her relatively limited stage time, with a form of bittersweet schoolgirl cattiness that seems to be as much about surviving in a cutthroat school environment as it is about maintaining social standing with her peers.

Occasionally the sound balance wasn’t quite right between the band and the company, though this didn’t take too much away from an engaging evening. The displays of telekinesis in action are worth seeing, as are the prom costumes. This is amateur dramatics at its finest: forget backing tracks – Rob Archibald leads a seven-piece band – and it’s difficult to pick a stand-out performance in a cast so finely balanced. The shock horror factor may not be prevalent, but the portrayal of bullying, intimidation and a sense of not fitting in is more than sufficiently disconcerting. Not one for the fainthearted.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Carrie White is a misfit. At school, she’s an outcast who’s bullied by the popular crowd, and virtually invisible to everyone else. At home, she’s at the mercy of her over-protective, hyper-religious mother. But there’s something different about Carrie – she has a special power. A power that can be destructive. And if she’s pushed too far, she may have to use it…

Based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel and the acclaimed movie starring Sissy Spacek, Carrie has been reinvented for our time in a new production sure to shake the Bridewell to its very core…

DIRECTOR | Chris Adams
MOVEMENT DIRECTOR | Paul Brookland Williams
PRODUCER | Lizzie Levett
SET DESIGNER | Adam Coppard
STAGE MANAGER | Jessie Berman

CARRIE WHITE | Sadie Kempner
MARGARET WHITE | Nina Zendejas
SUE SNELL | Ellie McWilliam
MISS GARDNER | Louise Roberts
CHRIS HARGENSEN | Heather Daniel
TOMMY ROSS | Adam Richardson
BILLY NOLAN | Toby Chapman
MR STEPHENS | Sam Sugarman
NORMA | Tasha Msanide
FRIEDA | Amy Foden
HELEN | Katie Porter
GEORGE | Chris Peters
STOKES | Jake Comeau
FREDDY | Nick Dore

Carrie: The Musical
Book by LAWRENCE D. COHEN | Based on the novel by STEPHEN KING
A cult musical based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel and the acclaimed movie
25-29 OCTOBER 2022

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