Monday, October 19, 2009

The long-awaited return of CARRIE THE MUSICAL?

Tony Award winner Sutton Foster and Tony nominees Marin Mazzie and Jennifer Damiano will take part in the industry presentation of the 1988 cult musical Carrie.

Yes, my dumplings, there actually was a Broadway musical based on Stephen King’s CARRIE!

Carrie (1974) was Stephen King's first published novel. The book follows a shy teenage girl who is raised by a fanatic Christian fundamentalist mother in a small Maine town. Carrie soon discovers she has telekinetic powers and ultimately uses them to take revenge on the classmates who taunt and humiliate her throughout the novel. Carrie was later adapted into a 1976 film starring Sissy Spacek in the title role, with Piper Laurie as her mother and Betty Buckley in a featured role as the gym teacher.

Fame songwriters Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford collaborated with Carrie screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen on the musical adaptation which premiered in London at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1988 starring Linzi Hately as Carrie, with Tony winner Barbara Cook as her mother. The cast also featured Tony nominee Charlotte d'Amboise, Gene Anthony Ray and Darlene Love.

Terry Hands directed the production that featured choreography by Debbie Allen, both of whom repeated their work for Broadway. The musical proved challenging to mount, with numerous special effects and the crucial plot point of dousing its leading lady with buckets of fake blood.

Carrie arrived on Broadway at the Virginia Theatre in April 1988 with Betty Buckley (a veteran of the 1976 film) replacing Cook in the role of Margaret White. Much of the original London principal cast, including Hately, d'Amboise, Ray and Love, reprised their performances.

Capitalized at over $7 million, Carrie gained cult status for being such an expensive and short-lived Broadway venture. After being derided by critics and leaving audiences divided, Carrie closed on Broadway after playing only 16 previews and 5 performances.

For those of you too young to remember this 1988 debacle, may I recommend Ken Mandlebaum’s magnificent book NOT SINCE CARRIE which details the show’s rise and fall along with hundreds of other flops throughout the decades. (For theater afficionados and collectors of flop musicals, there simply is no substitute.)

From Mandelbaum’s book:

What makes CARRIE so unique in flop musical history is its combination of soaring, often breathtaking sequences and some of the most appalling and ridiculous scenes ever seen in a musical. It alternately scaled the heights and hit rock-bottom. CARRIE also had non-stop energy and, unlike so many flops, was not dull for a second.”

While the response of those who saw CARRIE varied wildly, the response of those who missed it was uniform. Never have so many people who missed a flop musical wished so fervently that they had seen it. Many of those who did see it found themselves unable to stop talking about it, and live tapes of the score were widely circulated and treasured. When flop musicals opened during the season that began with CARRIE, critics and audiences had to admit that the new flops did not begin to live up to the standard set by CARRIE. CARRIE was fascinating, thrilling, horrible, and unbelievable. The ads said, “There’s Never Been A Musical Like Her” – and there never would be again.”

While Broadway has had it’s share of musical triumphs, it has also seen hundreds of musicals that had brief runs, lost millions of dollars and broke the hearts of their creators and performers. The legendary catastrophe Carrie has inspired websites, blogs, unauthorized productions, rip-offs and imitations and even a petition to the authors asking them to release the performance rights. There are also countless live bootleg recordings of the entire show - both on audio and video, which has led a growing legion of fans to wonder just what went wrong.

Well, they may not have to wonder anymore. As of today it has been announced that this infamously short-lived 1988 Broadway musical will have a private reading in Manhattan in November. Stafford Arima (Altar Boyz, Tin Pan Alley Rag, Somewhere in Time, London's Ragtime) will direct the Equity reading; the industry presentation is Nov. 20. Musical direction is by Stephen Oremus (Wicked, 9 to 5).

Variety reports that Tony-winning producer Jeffrey Seller (In the Heights, Avenue Q, Rent) has reunited composer Michael Gore, lyricist Dean Pitchford and book writer Lawrence D. Cohen to take another look at the property.

The cast will feature Foster (Shrek, Thoroughly Modern Millie) as gym teacher Ms. Gardner, Mazzie (Passion, Ragtime) as Margaret White, Molly Ranson (August: Osage County) as Carrie and Damiano (Next to Normal, Spring Awakening) as Sue.

Also revealed are "American Idol" finalist Diana DeGarmo (Hairspray, The Toxic Avenger) as Chris, Matt Doyle (Spring Awakening, Bye Bye Birdie) as Tommy and John Arthur Greene (West Side Story) as Billy.

The Carrie ensemble includes Corey Boardman (Next to Normal, Altar Boyz), Lilli Cooper (Spring Awakening), Katrina Rose Dideriksen (Things to Ruin), Benjamin Eakeley (Sweeney Todd), Emily Ferranti, Kyle Harris (The Cure), Philip Hoffman (A Catered Affair), Kaitlin Kiyan (Hair), Max Kumangai (What's That Smell?), Mackenzie Mauzy (White Noise), Preston Sadleir (Mrs. Sharp), Jonathan Schwartz (The Fantasticks) Bud Weber and Sasha Weiss (Jerry Springer).

On a personal note, I just adore Carrie the musical and hope that this time it works. The score is simply fantastic and no matter how it turns out, this is one theatrical event that promises to be most memorable.

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I'm just an ordinary housewife and mother...just like all you ordinary housewives and mothers out there.