Ed. note– I’t's my pleasure to welcome Michael Stever to the Death Ensemble staff. Michael is a talented director, filmmaker, camera man and writer, and even with all that on his plate, he’s taken the time to join us. His passion for Stephen King’s character Carrie is evident in this video, his first piece for DE. Enjoy.– P.F.
The literary & cinematic institution that is Stephen King’s Carrie, has remained a conundrum for its creators where the musical stage version is concerned. And even though she’s yet to see her finest hour on the boards, terms like “cult-hit” and “epic-flop” continue to give Carrie The Musical a legendary notoriety that simply can’t be bought. While the mixed reviews for MCC Theatre’s 2012 revival of Carrie were not what the theatre community at large had hoped for, it’s important to consider when juxtaposed to the ‘scathing, ‘Brutal-As-Hell’ reviews from 1988, this production team was definitely on the right track.
“I simply wanted more,” notes New York City producer, director & actress Linda S. Nelson. So many elements of this ‘Carrie’ were spot on, yet when it came to the execution of her telekinetic powers on stage this production really fell short.” “It’s clear they chose a more personalized, ‘human-interest’ approach with the story, which was interesting but might have steered a little too far from the epic ‘over the top’ Grand Guignol blood-letting Carrie fans thirst for.”
This itself is a fascinating consideration, and exemplifies just how difficult a ‘pitch-perfect’ production of Carrie The Musical will be to successfully execute. But between the ever-evolving state of on-stage special effects, in conjunction with the use of eye popping projections, Carrie will one day have her bloody revenge not only on her cruel classmates and religious fanatic mother – but the evil critics, theatre snobs and naysayers to boot!
“I remember when the ’88 production of ‘Carrie’ came out,” recalls indie horror actor & filmmaker Joe Zaso, “I saw the TV spots and they were actually really cool, very creepy. Then I read the reviews and was amazed at how nasty the reviewers were to this show. However, to this day it’s the one show all my friends tell me they wish they’d seen, but didn’t’ get the chance as it closed way too soon.”
Despite heavy duty success for Fame and Footloose lyricist Dean Pitchford & composer Michael Gore, both admit entrusting Carrie to ‘British Import’ director Terry Hands, and German producer Fredrich Kurz proved to be the nail in the coffin for Carrie ’88. “We were so young and naive back then,” recalls Pitchford . “Looking back now we’d have done things much differently.” Composer Michael Gore admits that their naivete put them at a serious disadvantage. ”We were dealing with a talented, but overbearing director who had virtually no knowledge, or affinity for the very American institution of ‘Senior Prom’ – in addition to a nervous German producer who basically fled the country when things got dicey after the New York opening.” Given the thunderous cheering, and standing ovations the show received nightly, the producers should have had more faith in Carrie 88′s ability to recoup its investment. Of course hindsight is always twenty/twenty. Few people are even aware that iconic directors like Bob Fosse and David Lynch had all thrown their hats into Carrie’s ‘ring of fire!’ “Fosse wanted the piece to be even darker,” noted Gore. Fosse was a smart man indeed.
The aforementioned ‘human-interest’ angle has manifested with a focus on “bullying,” a term which has grown in the heart’s of the Carrie 2012 producing team. It’s also the focus of a fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary short film you can watch below hosted by director & filmmaker,Michael Stever. Stever talks candidly with virtually every major player on the Carrie 2012 creative team, plus legendary actress Piper Laurie who starred in Brian DePalma’s classic 1976 film CARRIE. Laurie is presently promoting her own riveting memoir entitled, Learning To Live Out Loud: A Memoir. ”Bullying has always been there.” notes Laurie in Stever’s short film,‘Resurrecting Carrie!’ “To me it’s a crutch used by news organizations. I honestly don’t know if it’s any worse now or not.”
Fortunately this current revivals creative team was much more in sync, and it shows. Yet, those trouble spots remain. Who will pick up that ’Carrie Mantle’ next? There are a number of theaters vying for that coveted spot. Whoever does deserves major kudos and ONE HELL of a lofty band of creative geniuses to make it work! But worry not Carrie fans, our telekinetic underdog Queen will have her on stage revenge one day soon – and what a glorious day it will be indeed!