To separate Carrie (the musical) from its mother Carrie (the film) is difficult, but the musical acknowledges and circumvents this: it all begins with Sue Snell giving testimony of what occurred on the night she’ll never forget — tragedy is inevitable. Following this, we understand that this musical does not aim to surprise, but rather satisfy our expectations, and as a result bum notes are easily heard.
For the few who don’t know the premise: Carrie White is an isolated and bullied teenager in what can only be described as an archetypal American high school. Between the constant berating she receives from her peers and a very religious mother, she discovers she has telekinetic powers. Things go downhill from there.
The opening number involves a heavy dose of teenage angst (lines delightfully include “god it’s rough, staying tough”, “all this bullshit gets in the way”, “both my folks, total jokes, all they do is chew my ass”) coupled with drawling American accents and aggressively knocking chairs over. So far, so perfect. The ensemble has great enthusiasm and their vivacity provides a solid backbone for a show that occasionally suffers from its weaker lead.
The leads are generally impressive and tick all of the expected boxes, with Tommy (Ruaridh Mathieson) and Chris (Katy Johnston) standing out in particular. Mathieson plays Tommy with a suave and humble quality, perfectly capturing the jock-with-a-heart-of-gold trope, accompanied by an impressive vocal ability. Johnston is equally good at portraying Chris’ and her unexpectedly velvet voice feels like a genuine treat to the audience. Sue (Paula Nelson) is played as appropriately, if somewhat gratingly, saccharin; Marnie Yule plays Miss Gardner with great warmth, matched by her voice; and Carrie’s mother (Katy Allan) possesses one of the most impressive voices in the cast. Her voice lifts the production to a higher level of professionalism, even if her acting is occasionally melodramatic and runs the risk of distracting from her singing.
However, one of the problems is the titular Carrie (Louise Creechan), whose strengths are also her weaknesses. Carrie relies on the idea that a meek and reticent young girl has the hidden ability to massacre an entire school. While Creechan is wonderful at playing Carrie as a gentle figure, insecure but kind, she is less convincing as a murderous Carrie and her final outburst feels more like a childish tantrum than cold-blooded murder. She is hindered by a voice that lends itself better to Carrie’s gentler nature, and her vocal outbursts are underwhelming. However, to her credit, she is heartbreaking when she returns to her mother, tearful and looking for comfort.
Creechan’s shortcomings extend into the production, unfortunately. Familiarity with the film and the framing of the musical means that we anticipate the final bloodshed, and considering its proximity to Halloween, the audience are expecting a gore-fest. Just as Creechan’s portrayal of destruction is slightly unconvincing, so is the prom scene. The scene is surprisingly brief, and the murder of the students is shown as them flailing backwards and forwards, falling to the ground, standing up, falling once more, and concludes with them shuffling off stage during a blackout. The use of strobe and sound effects can’t quite rescue it.
Overall, Carrie is an impressive display from Mad Props, providing a strong example of the musical theatre talent in Glasgow, and is exactly what is expected from an 80’s musical adaptation of a classic horror film. However, considering how frequently I am reminded that this is meant to be a night I’ll never forget, it is bizarre that the final act suffers from such a distinct lack of gore or excitement.
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