Arts Review: Carrie – The Musical

Dir. Sarah-Elizabeth Daly-Creechan, Webster Theatre, 2nd – 5th November

Adapting Stephen King’s Carrie into a musical is nothing new. In fact, it’s been done since 1988 when Broadway first staged such a project; a project that was so disastrous it coined the phrase “Not since Carrie” amongst many theatre chains. However, the play has since seen many revivals and interpretations, including Glasgow’s own Mad Props Theatre who have just hosted the Scottish premier of the production.

Following the screenplay to the musical’s 2012 revival very closely, this play tells the story of an abused teenage girl using her telekinetic powers to get brutal revenge on her cruel peers and religious fanatic of a mother, using one set, minimal props and over a dozen songs.  Past adaptations have been plagued with both script and technical problems, but Mad Props’ take on the terrifying tale boasts solid performances, clever use of practical effects and the advantage of retelling a timeless story.

As someone who’s listened to the soundtrack before, the crew handled the multiple musical numbers very well. They were directed skilfully, the choreography was impressive and the singing was all around great, especially since the songs themselves are a mixed bag.  “Carrie” and “Do Me a Favour” are both catchy but others, like “You Shine” may be a little too corny for their own good.  Nevertheless, thanks to the singing and orchestra, it was hard not to foot-tap along with the soundtrack.

Singing is, however, only half the battle here. General performances cannot be ignored and the cast was collectively great, with Carrie (Louise Creechan, played by Hannah McGowan on certain showings) and bully Chris Hargensen (Katy Johnston) being stand-outs. The character of Chris is the personification of the word “bitch” and Katy Johnson embraced that to great effect, while Louise Creechan was able to brilliantly find the balance between vulnerability and hatred that’s required for a role as difficult as this one.

Using the gymnasium, where the eventual prom destruction takes place, as a primary set is an intelligent move, and the few instances where Carrie’s telekinesis is demonstrated are directed euphorically. This amounts the production into an enjoyable display of stylish dancing, terrific singing and an all-around vibrant atmosphere.  Fun, well-crafted and musically energetic, Mad Props Theatre’s interpretation of Carrie: The Musical is a night you certainly won’t forget.

[Calum Cooper]

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