When you think of Stephen King’s Carrie, you probably remember the 1976 film with Sissy Spacek as Carrie, along with Piper Laurie as her mother, Amy Irving as Sue, and Betty Buckley as Miss Collins. And who could forget John Travolta as teen bad-boy Billy?
Or, when you think of Carrie, perhaps you remember the 2013 movie remake with Chloe Grace Moretz as the title character and Julianne Moore as her mother. Maybe you are even a true Stephen King fan and have read the 1974 novel that inspired all the adaptations.
This summer, The Western Stage will give you a different look at this horror classic: live on stage right in front of you.
Carrie: The Musical, which premiered on Broadway in 1988, has a book by Lawrence D. Cohen, the same person who wrote the screenplay for the 1976 film version. It also features a slew of dramatic songs, with lyrics by Dean Pitchford and music by Michael Gore.
Cohen has fond memories of the musical’s inception. In the liner notes for the cast recording of Carrie’s 2012 off-Broadway revival, he wrote about watching the 2012 cast onstage and how it made him remember the show’s beginning.
“A roar of memories come rushing back, and intense feelings, at once familiar and new, flood in,” Cohen wrote. “Flashcards of recollections fill my mind — the night Michael (Gore) and I went to see Alban Berg’s Lulu at the Metropolitan Opera, after which Michael had the ‘ah-ha!’ idea to turn Carrie into a musical that would incorporate both pop and opera-like elements.”
In another vivid memory, Cohen recalled calling Stephen King in Maine to request the stage rights for the novel. “I’d be thrilled out of my undershorts” was the reply.
But Carrie: The Musical had a rocky beginning. Opening with a trial at the famed Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon in England in February of 1988, it quickly moved “over the pond” to perform on Broadway. Unfortunately, due to a combination of mixed reviews and the sudden absence of its principal backer, the show closed after only five performances.
Still, Cohen and his cohorts refused to give up on the show. They knew its themes would remain compelling over time, staying just as applicable as they were when King wrote the novel. Perhaps even more so.
As Cohen wrote in the 2012 liner notes: “In the intervening years, my collaborators and I never gave up on the piece or the initial impulses that had inspired us to musicalize King’s remarkably prescient little fable in the first place. Something primal about it — about life as an outsider in high school — continued to speak to us in some deep part of our souls … the persistent sense that we are all Carrie. In addition, the passage of time, along with the increasing epidemic of bullying in the world, only made its narrative more resonant, as did the vocal presence of religious fundamentalists in our culture.”
More than 20 years after the first staged production, Carrie: The Musical went through a revival. Some might even call it a resurrection. The original creators of the musical came together again to completely revamp and renew the show. In January 2012, the new version opened Off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, presented by MCC Theater.
The revival ran for a limited engagement, with 34 previews and 46 performances. Though the run was short, MCC directors told Playbill, “MCC, the authors, and the director achieved what we all set out to do — to rescue Carrie from oblivion and to give her new life.” The show also got its first-ever cast album, which was released in September 2012.
In addition, Carrie: The Musical has continued to be revived. Productions have been staged in London, Los Angeles and many other places. The Los Angeles Times called it “a mind-blowing immersive production,” adding, “What a spectacular show.
The Western Stage is proud to be among the many theaters giving Carrie: The Musical new life. Join us for this electric, dramatic production of an American classic. As the kids sing in the play: “You ain’t seen nothing yet / It’s gonna be a night we’ll never forget!”