Based on the 1976 film of the same title, Carrie the musical was initially a Broadway flop and closed after only five performances. Since then the show has had several revivals, and the production being performed by Lumina Theatre Company is the same as the revived off-Broadway version from 2012.
Having seen a previous production of this rarely produced show, I was interested to find out how Lumina Theatre Company would approach this unusual show.
For those who don’t know, Carrie is about an awkward girl on the verge of womanhood, who is bullied at school and berated at home by her God-fearing mother. Carrie discovers she has telekinetic abilities, and she uses these powers to seek revenge on those who have harmed her.
The strong point of this particular production is in the casting – there is not a weak link amongst them.
Laura Rogers tackles the fragile and emotionally abused Carrie White with a maturity beyond her years. Rogers’ understanding of the role is spot on and I was blown away when she began singing. Her songs “Carrie” and “Why Not Me” are scene-stopping moments in the show.
Saskia Penn, as Carrie’s mother Margaret White, shows us the emotional damage done to her character as a young girl. Her strong voice makes the most of the ballads “And Eve Was Weak,” “I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance” and “When There’s No One.”
Indy Angel is a vocal powerhouse. Her duet with Laura Rogers on “Unsuspecting Hearts” is a highlight of the production.
‘Mean girl’ Chris Harrington and ‘nice girl’ Sue Snell play off each other well. Sahra Floratos (Harrington) and Rachel Bottomley (Snell) both have great voices and are very strong in their respective scenes. Their partners, Tommy Ross and Billy Nolan, played respectively by Jesse Hone and Shaun Dickson, both do a great job of portraying the nice guy/bad guy. Particularly touching is Hone and Bottomley’s duet “You Shine”.
The music in this production is handled extremely well by musical director Alex Langdon who has the entire cast sounding full and even. Her orchestra is well tuned and sounds great. The score for Carrie ranges from gospel to rock to ballads, and every genre is treated with the respect it deserves and is delivered in a similar fashion.
Celeste Bayly has deftly choreographed her way around pieces of furniture that never move and a set that never changes. These limitations have not stopped Bayly from delivering some very well executed and appropriate choreography that is within the grasp of the entire cast.
Sound design by Gerard Hook is even throughout the show and every member of the cast is audible when needed.
I found the one static set design by Nick Sheridan confusing. The entire show is played against a single set (inside the White residence?) with ripped curtains and a worn out couch. These didn’t sit well with me, because Margaret White, a religious zealot and so fastidious with everything else in her life, would reflect this in her furnishings and the way she lives. The audience is required to believe the inside of the house then becomes the school with no change of furniture or window coverings. The set could easily be changed to at least resemble a part of the high school with a few well-placed banners and some bench seating.
Costume design by Clara Remfrey-Pettit is somewhat inconsistent, making it difficult to work out the time period being represented – the 1970s or the present. In some scenes the students use mobile phones, however costuming throughout the show is very much reminiscent of the ’70s. Irregularities like these can distract the audience from the plot and detract from the show itself. The final prom scene, for example, could have been intensified and made current by all the kids taking flash pictures of Carrie as she is crowned. Thematic and timeline considerations like these need to be nailed down very early in the planning process of a production and adhered to.
This is the first musical to be directed by Emily Vitiello, and her direction is good with regard to where she placed the actors. However, I do believe a lot more work was needed in character development and in pulling back those cast members who were treating this as a farce and not a legitimate piece of theatre. I also believe the special effects could have benefited from more attention being paid to them. The culmination of the show – Carrie’s on stage crowning – really lacks the punch it deserves due to set constraints and a lack of imagination.
These issues aside, Lumina Theatre Company have a good production on their hands, and I would recommend anyone who hasn’t seen Carrie the musical to make their way to the Mahon Theatre in Ringwood to be see a show that deserved to be on Broadway for more than five performances.
The season continues with shows on September 19th-21st at 7:30pm. Tickets are available through https://www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=512600
Review written by Gavin Dean.