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Review of Carrie The Musical at Southwark Playhouse

Evelyn Hoskins as Carrie in CARRIE
Evelyn Hoskins as Carrie in CARRIE – THE MUSICAL. Photo Credit Claire Bilyard

In 1974 an unknown writer published his first novel about a young, shy girl from a repressed background who was bullied by her peers at school and found a way to get her revenge. The writer was Stephen King and the novel was ‘Carrie’. 41 years and two movies later, “Carrie The Musical” has flown in to the Southwark Playhouse like a hurricane.

On an empty stage, Sue Snell (Sarah McNicholas) is in the spotlight being interrogated by two voices asking her about the events of Prom Night. We flash back to school where Sue, along with best friend Chris Hargensen (Gabriella Williams) are the leaders of the ‘in crowd’ of pupils about to have their Senior Prom and go off from High School to the world outside. Definitely not part of the ‘in crowd’ is Carrie White (Evelyn Hoskins) a timid mouse of a girl who has been the butt of everybody’s jokes since kneeling down to pray at lunch in their first year at school. This show of religion, which leads to derision from her peers, is nothing compared to her mother Margaret (Kim Criswell) a devout Christian fundamentalist who sees sin everywhere and goes to extreme lengths to ‘protect’ her daughter from Satan and his minions. Carrie has more than enough to deal with trying to get the approval of her fellow pupils but then, much later than the others, puberty unexpectedly hits Carrie in a shocking way after gym class. Whilst being a perfectly natural and normal occurrence, Carrie is terrified and reaches out for help from the other girls who turn on her once more until Gym teacher Miss Gardner (Jodie Jacobs) steps in to rescue her. Unbeknown to anyone else, the onset of puberty in Carrie has released not only the normal hormonal changes that affect everyone but, something else, something special and something that will have a dramatic effect on everyone involved in Carrie’s unhappy life.

Feeling guilty for the way she has treated Carrie, Sue goes against her friends and persuades her boyfriend Tommy Ross (Greg Miller Burns) to take her to the Senior Prom and give Carrie at least one magical night. Chris, a spoilt brat who is used to getting her own way, is really unhappy with Sue’s plan and decides, along with her boyfriend Billy Nolan (Dex Lee), to both exact revenge and totally humiliate Carrie one last time before graduation.

This version of “Carrie The Musical” is based on the 2012 off-Broadway revival of the show and is a wonderful, if unexpected, example of how a horror novel can be turned into a genuinely entertaining and engaging musical production. With a book by Lawrence D Cohen, lyrics by Dean Pitchford and Music by, the appropriately named, Michael Gore “Carrie The Musical” retains all of the story of the original book and enhances it with some fantastic musical numbers. One person at the performance I saw described the show as ballad heavy and it’s possible that it is but at the end of the day, this is a very dark horror story where lots of happy clappy numbers with jazz hands really wouldn’t work. There are some upbeat songs – such as the opening number ‘In’ – and there are some truly fantastic soul and duet songs. Carrie and her mother have some of the most intense and powerful numbers such as ‘Open your Heart’ and ‘Stay Here Instead’ which both actresses deliver superbly and really draw you in and enable the audience to connect on all levels with the two characters.

Director/Choreographer Gary Lloyd has put the audience on three sides of the stage area and makes full use of the space he has both directly and with the walkways at the ends of the rows again pulling the audience right in to the action. I loved the subtlety of the direction, for example, when Carrie appears for her ‘date’ to the prom, there is no massive fanfare, lights blazing on her, all that happens is a shy young girl walks onto the stage looking like a woman whose beauty is natural and unforced.

Evelyn Hoskins is stunning in the lead role. Her posture, face and especially eyes all come together with her undoubted acting skill to make Carrie such a real person. When fighting with her mother, there is a look of real terror in her face which later is replaced by the sheer wonder of someone seeing beauty at her school for the first time ever. Put together with Kim Criswell as Margaret, you have a pairing that is one of the finest I have seen for a long while as mother fights daughter to either protect her or keep control of their relationship depending on your point of view. The rest of the cast are equally as good, especially Sarah McNicholas as Sue who portrays the teenager who finds it in her heart to make defy the pack and make a stand for Carrie wonderfully well. Her anguish during the moments of interrogation is very well portrayed as the relentless voices ask her the same questions trying to make sense of something that is not logical. Gabriella Williams’ is perfect as Carrie’s arch nemesis Chris. A real daddy’s girl who always gets what she wants and virtually rules the school, Chris has not got a single redeeming characteristic and could easily be over-played in pantomime villain style but Gabriella pitches the role at exactly the right level that the audience hate Chris but don’t actually boo her at the end.

An intense and emotionally charged production “Carrie the Musical” had me hooked from start to finish. There is bad language, there are diva strops, there are horrible scenes of cruelty, there are bullies, there is love and there is blood. What more could anyone ask for?
5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Pray for your Salvation…
Carrie is back like you’ve never seen her before.
Twenty-seven years after first wreaking havoc, the world’s most talked about Broadway musical is coming to London. Academy Award winning Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore (Fame), and original screenplay writer Lawrence D. Cohen, have transformed Stephen King’s unlikely Cinderella story into an infectiously modern musical that has gripped audiences from Australia to America with its timeless story and thrilling score.
A taunted and terrified seventeen-year-old misfit, Carrie White has a burning secret… a secret that will eventually ignite her revenge. Make your date for the Senior Prom to see who will be crowned Queen, and who will have blood on their hands. After one night with Carrie you will always remember her name.
Based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel, Carrie: The Musical hasn’t been seen in the UK since the legendary original production. Produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, it first premiered in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1988 before transferring straight to Broadway, but never made it to London. In 2012 original composer Michael Gore, lyricist Dean Pitchford and librettist Lawrence D. Cohen revised its score and book and this newly reworked and fully re-imagined vision for Carrie: The Musical will now be presented for the first time on the London stage

Creative Team
Director & Choreographer Gary Lloyd, Designer Tim McQuillen-Wright, Musical Director Mark Crossland, Lighting Designer Tim Oliver, Sound Design Dan Samson, Music Programming Gary Hickeson, Special Effects Jeremy Chernick, Producer Paul Taylor-Mills, Casting Director Will Burton CDG, Composer Michael Gore, Lyrics Dean Pitchford, Book Lawrence D. Cohen, Publicity, design and marketing Dewynters, Social & Digital The Umbrella Rooms.

Cast
Kim Criswell, Olly Dobson, David Habbin, Evelyn Hoskins, Jodie Jacobs, Dex Lee, Bobbie Little, Emily McGougan, Molly McGuire, Sarah McNicholas, Greg Miller-Burns, Eddie Myles, Patrick Sullivan and Gabriella Williams

 

Listing
FRIDAY 1 – SATURDAY 30 MAY 2015
SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE, The Large
77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD
Performances: Monday – Saturday 7.30pm, Thursday 2.30pm (except 7 May), Saturdays 3.00pm
Tickets: £18-22 (£12 previews)
Box Office 020 7407 0234
http://www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk

Friday 8th May 2015

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