Get ready for Carrie.
Yes, that Carrie — the one whose high school prom climaxes with a bloody finale.
She’ll take the Reilly Theatre stage Wednesday, March 4, to begin LSU Theatre’s Main Stage run of “Carrie the Musical.”
That’s right. Carrie White’s story will be told through music. And there will be blood.
“The blood won’t be as it’s portrayed in the movie,” says director Tamara Fisch. “The bucket of blood in the movie is made to look like volumes falling on Carrie. We can’t make one bucket look like that in the theater. So, we’ll have blood in the theatrical sense.”
Many will recall the iconic scene of Sissy Spacek covered in pig’s blood after being crowned prom queen in Brian De Palma’s 1976 classic film adaptation of Stephen King’s first novel, “Carrie.”
Carrie has telekinetic powers and an oppressive religious fanatic mother. She’s naive and looks different, which makes her a target for bullying.
And in the end, Carrie doesn’t follow Lord Byron’s advice about revenge being a dish best served cold. No, Carrie’s revenge strikes while the iron is hot.
“It’s a popular production for a lot of high schools,” Tisch says. “It resonates with them, and it makes sense, because it’s a telekinetic revenge fantasy. But it also resonates with them because it deals with bullying.”
“Carrie the Musical” almost plays out as two simultaneous musicals on stage. The high school, its students and teachers are the centerpiece of one, and Carrie and her mother are the stars of the other.
“It’s interesting to see how it’s set up,” says Haley Schroeck, who plays mom to Abigail Tatum’s Carrie. “It’s as if Carrie and her mom live in a world of their own. And as her mom, I don’t have interaction with the rest of the cast, just Carrie.”
“The music is different in each of these scenes, too,” Tisch adds. “In the high school scenes, it’s more of a pop rock musical. In the scenes with Carrie and her mother, it’s more operatic.”
Though younger generations may be more familiar with the 2013 remake of “Carrie,” with Chloe Grace Moretz in the lead and Julianne Moore as her mother, it’s the campy 1976 original that set the stage.
Not only did it feature Spacek in the lead but Piper Laurie as mom, along with Amy Irving, William Katt and John Travolta as Carrie’s peers. The movie was so popular that it sparked an overblown musical, which premiered and flopped on Broadway in 1988.
The show’s original creators, composers Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford, and writer Lawrence D. Cohen, who wrote the 1976 film, revamped the musical in 2009.
“The writing team worked with an off-Broadway team in New York and scaled it down into a smaller production,” Tisch says.
The show premiered on March 1, 2012, to favorable reviews and multiple award nominations. It’s since been a favorite not only with high schools but small theater companies throughout the country.
King first introduced the character in 1974 in what started out as a publishing run of only 30,000 books. The novel skyrocketed on to the bestseller list.
“I had the cast read the novel before we started rehearsals,” Tisch says. “Some of them had seen the original movie, and some were only familiar with the remake. And some of them didn’t know the story at all.”
By reading the novel, cast members could get into Carrie’s head, along with an understanding of the original story, which illustrates how some aspects of high school never change.
Peer pressure, popularity, conformity, cruelty: it’s all there. But, as Tisch pointed out earlier, “Carrie” fulfills the fantasy of revenge.
Still, revenge isn’t so pretty.
“The story follows the movie,” Tisch says. “Blood is a running theme, and all the iconic scenes are there.”
That includes the scene when Carrie is frightened by her first menstrual cycle while changing in the gym locker room after physical education class. Her classmates mock her by throwing feminine products at her.
Then she returns home to be rebuked by her mother.
“Carrie’s mother is an over-the-top character, very extreme,” Schroeck says. “She’s not bipolar, but she almost seems bipolar. I had never seen the movie, so when I was first cast as Carrie’s mother, I thought I was a minor character. I was wrong.”
It would be easy for audiences to dismiss Carrie’s mom as insane, but Schroeck says there are more layers to this character.
“She’s driven by her intense love for her daughter, but she’s also driven by her intense fear,” she says. “At first I said she’s crazy, but then I realized that she’s so sad.”
“In fact, the character of the mother is the most different in the musical than in the movie,” Tisch adds. “She has a lot more humanity. This musical gives us a sense of her interior life.”
It’s a life she imposes on Carrie not so much for punishment but for protection. Carrie suffers for it. She dresses differently, talks differently and doesn’t know much about the world.
And the world pays for it in the end.