Excellently directed by Kimberli Rowley with crisp musical direction from Daniel Chambers, Carrie: The Musical is an intensely emotional show not to be missed at Cumberland Theatre this Halloween season.
Based on the famous Stephen King novella and movie of the same name, Carrie: The Musical tells the story of what happens when high school bullying goes horribly wrong. Carrie White is an awkward outcast and misfit in her high school, as her obsessively religious mother has raised Carrie incredibly sheltered and dangerously different from the other girls her age. After an incident in gym class, Sue Snell, a fellow classmate, attempts to include Carrie in the social circle by having her attend the high school prom, against the wishes of Carrie’s mother, with eventually disastrous consequences.
Taylor Campbell packs a powerhouse performance as misfit protagonist, Carrie White. Campbell makes the character’s yearning for acceptance instantly relatable in her opening scene and solo “Carrie.” Her character transition throughout the show is extraordinary and Campbell does a fantastic job of letting small moments of madness slip through her reserved demeanor.
Nicole Halmos is exceptional as Margaret White, Carrie’s mother. Halmos has a gorgeously powerful operatic voice and a disturbing religious zeal in her scenes. Her opening duet with Campbell “And Eve Was Weak,” while featuring beautiful harmonies between the two ladies, was intensely frightening.
As the show narrator, Sarah Burton gives a standout performance as compassionate student Sue Snell. Burton makes a goody-two-shoes character who could turn extremely saccharine in less talented hands into a fully dimensional and consciously conflicted character. Her solo “Once You See” was an extremely poignant moment in Act I.
Hayden Kline is entirely earnest and wholesome as Sue’s boyfriend, Tommy Ross. Kline has a soaring, effortless tenor voice and his duet “You Shine” with Burton in Act II was one of the highlights of the production.
Aimee Conley gives a delightfully evil display as Chris, the spoiled, snooty student who torments Carrie and quickly becomes the character the audience loves to hate. Conley has a fantastic, sexy belting voice and equally seductive dance moves. However, the character who truly steals every scene he’s in is Adam Marino as Chris’ boyfriend, Billy Nolan. Marino is hysterical as the truly obnoxious, over the top high school delinquent and his comedic timing and delivery is exceptional.
Stephen Gumtz is strong and compassionate as Carrie’s teacher, Mr. Stephens. Heidi Gardner is wonderful as the no-nonsense gym teacher, Miss Gardner, who attempts to help Carrie. She and Campbell share a lovely vocal blend on their sweet duet “Unsuspecting Hearts.”
Choreography by Brittany Eberly is impressively both fluid and sharply isolated. The full cast dance numbers featuring the high school students provide some dazzling visuals while still looking slightly dangerous and disorienting. The full ensemble scenes, featuring Lily Kerrigan, Kirk Yutzy, Victoria Mann, Brett Reel, Savannah Humbertson, Ian Robinson and Whitney O’Haver, crackle with intensity and the confrontational bullying scenes are riveting.
Though the musical features excellent performances by a well-assembled cast, the truly memorable portion of the evening is the astounding technical effects and lighting and set design, both by Rhett Wolford. The multi-layered and detailed set allows multiple areas for dance sequences and seamless scene transitions, especially with the use of two raised platforms left and right for Carrie’s and Sue’s rooms. Lighting effects in creepy shades of red and various patterns complete the effect and the scrim lighting for the scene where Carrie is locked in the prayer closet created an impressive effect. Without revealing too much, the technical effects at the end of Act I and the climax of the show are realistically startling and well worth the price of admission alone.
For a frightening and fantastic evening of high emotion and chilling musical sequences, don’t miss Carrie: The Musical at Cumberland Theatre.
Running Time: Two hours and 15 minutes, including an intermission.