Cardinal Music Productions’ Carrie: The Musical wrapped up in Windsor this weekend and it was absolutely nothing like the horror films we’ve known all these years. It was a bold and dramatic work that felt more like a modern take on bullying than it did classic horror.
In this revamped, contemporary version of the famous (and infamous) 1988 production, Carrie: The Musical follows a young woman with telekinetic powers. An outcast at school, where she is bullied viciously for her differences, Carrie is also lost at home, with a fervently religious mother whose love traps her in its maw. When PE teacher Miss Gardner, kind classmate Sue Snell, and boyfriend Tommy Ross reach out to try and help Carrie, it seems that for once, Carrie might have a shot at being accepted. But Chris Hargensen, the class’s most vicious bully, has other ideas. Pushed to the brink, Carrie’s powers threaten to overwhelm her, and devour everyone around her in flames.
Armed with some catchy musical numbers, decent costumes and great choreography, this 19-member Cardinal ensemble gave the Steven King 1974 novel some much needed meat and potatoes. Carrie is dealt a reign of terror that feels more like Heathers and other musicals about bullying than it does about an anti-Christ covered in blood – making it far more poignant than most of the audience expected.
Much of the change in tone is mostly due to Sydney White’s portrayal of Carrie itself. She gave the character such a timid approach that it was easy to feel sorry for her – almost throughout the entire show. The modest clothing and apprehensive mannerisms truly felt like we were watching a girl who was being bullied right in front of us. Sissy Spacek will always be the definitive Carrie, but White’s approach was fresh, modern and a breath of fresh air.
Aside from the school bullying, Carrie also gets it at home from her obnoxiously religious mother, played amazingly by Melissa Mills. In the movie, Carrie’s mom comes across as a psychopathic religious nutcase who tortures her with religious isolation, but Mills gave the character more of a Jehovah’s Witness vibe with more rules and less torture. That approach didn’t deter from her obnoxious treatment of Carrie, nor from her devout faith.
The cast was rounded out with great performances from Serena Barr playing Carrie’s nemesis Chris Hargensen and Owen Bortolin as Billy Nolan. Additionally, Regan White as Sue Snell and Nick Palazzolo as boyfriend Tommy Ross were perfectly cast. Palazzolo looked like the perfect King of the Prom and could easily rival William Katt’s appearance in the original movie.
Overall, the musical was a lot more dramatic than the movie will ever be. The story felt deeper than it ever had and the music was just as powerful. The outstanding song of the show is the ensemble masterpiece A Night We’ll Never Forget, which the entire cast nailed.
Cardinal’s production was minimalist and deeply lit, but it felt perfect for this show. They handled the impossible prom scene with stunning red lights that felt as though Carrie and the cast were covered in bright red paint and a disco ball made the dance seem even more real.
Kudos to Cardinal, the cast and crew for making a night we’ll certainly never forget.