Courtesy of Woodlawn Theater
“Carrie the Musical” will be exacting revenge at the Woodlawn just in time for Halloween. While the original 1988 Broadway production was despised by critics and resulted in a huge financial loss for investors, the Woodlawn’s production of the revised 2012 musical, directed by Christopher Rodriguez, will give you chills all along your spine.
Based on the iconic movie and book by Stephen King, the musical follows Carrie White (Elise Pardue), a shy high school student who is developing telekinetic powers. Socially awkward and ignorant, Carrie is bullied by her peers and abused by her oppressive, unstable and religiously zealous mother (Rebecca Trinidad).
The play takes a different approach from the movie, however, beginning with Sue Snell (Megan McCarthy) being interrogated about the events that lead to the story’s conclusion. The audience follows Sue Snell’s narration throughout the play, invoking the style of the novel, which is told mostly through newspaper clippings, book passages and letters.
The actors did a decent job portraying their characters. While some scenes seemed a little wooden, many of the scenes were packed with poignant emotion.
Pardue and Trinidad were particularly mesmerizing in their scenes together as daughter and mother. Pardue aroused sympathy as a daughter who felt betrayed by her mother, and Trinidad convincingly portrayed Margaret White with a perfect blend of madness and love.
Both actresses also had amazing voices, and their duets were the most memorable scenes of the play. Trinidad’s voice was especially captivating, causing chills and carrying audiences away from reality.
Alison Hinojosa, who played Carrie’s main bully Chris Hargensen, also engrossed the audience with her acting and her vocal performances. She portrayed Chris with such pride and animosity that hating her character became enjoyable.
The production’s set design was effectively minimal. The background consisted of large beige doors that served as a background for the locker room, the prom and other school scenes, allowing the audience to focus more on the actors than the set. On one side of the stage was the door for Carrie’s house, and on the other was a podium for the preacher, which was used so sparingly that one could forget it was there. Scenes inside Carrie’s house were porformed in front of a black curtain that covered the background, effectively demonstrating Carrie’s repression from the outside world.
At one point of the production, Carrie is forced in a box illuminated with red light underneath the stage. While it was difficult to see Pardue during this scene, the setting, which seemed to represent hell, successfully conveyed the isolation and terror that Carrie must have been feeling at the hands of her mother.
The special effects for Carrie’s telekinesis, which involved objects such as chairs falling or moving across the stage unaccompanied, were impressive and even creepy. However, if there had been no music cue or lines referring to the incident, Carrie’s first telekinetic experience in the locker room could be easily missed.
The production drifts slightly away from the original by setting the story in present time. Both the novel and the original movie were set in the late 70s; however, the recent 2013 remake of the movie also set the story in present times. In both the remake and the musical, the characters wear modern clothes, and at one point, one of Carrie’s bullies records a humiliating video of Carrie with a smartphone and posts the video online.
The change of setting serves as a reminder that bullying and abuse are still ongoing issues and demonstrates how new technology can be used to facilitate bullying. “Carrie the Musical” illustrates the extreme consequences of bullying and abuse. Overall, the production is a memorable, powerful experience that highlights an important issue.
“Carrie the Musical” runs through Nov. 9. Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m., with no show Nov. 8. On Oct. 25, the Woodlawn asks guests to wear prom attire and will award a prom king and queen, and on Oct. 31, they will host a costume contest.
Tickets are available online at www.woodlawntheatre.org or by calling the box office at 210-267-8388. Prices are $15 for students and children, $20 for seniors and military and $23 for adults.