‘Carrie the Musical’ at Dominion Stage

Just in time for Halloween, Dominion Stage presents Carrie the Musical, with music by Michael Gore, lyrics by Dean Pitchford, and book by Lawrence D. Cohen. Based off Stephen King’s horror novel, Matthew Randall directs this cult musical.

Front: Aaron Verghot-Ware; Middle: Kimberly Braswell, Morgan DeHart, Becca Harney, Stella Maria Giapitzeli; Back: Katie Mallory, Chris Galindo, and Alex Lew. Photo courtesy of Dominion Stage.
Front: Aaron Verghot-Ware; Middle: Kimberly Braswell, Morgan DeHart, Becca Harney, Stella Maria Giapitzeli; Back: Katie Mallory, Chris Galindo, and Alex Lew. Photo courtesy of Dominion Stage.

Even though the show has been intensely re-vamped since its infamous Broadway flop in 1988 and for a recent NYC revival, the book still needs work, but there are some powerful and effective songs.

A thrust stage is used for this production, with a live instrumental ensemble tucked away in a corner. Musical Director Walter McCoy leads five musicians (Leah Kocsis on Keyboards, Mark Koons on guitar, Chris Twigg on bass, Katie Chambers on cello, and Sam Carolla on drums).

Let me get the biggest issue out of the way now: the acoustics for this show need quite a bit of work. The live music was great (I especially loved the cello, which created a sinister, chilling tone), but it did drown out a great deal of vocals throughout the show. This issue was combated with mics for the actors, but there was an awful lot of piercing feedback from some of them, while others weren’t strong enough to rise above the musicians.

Lighting Designer Phillip Ian Claar did a great job with his use of disco and strobe effects. Sound Designer Phillip Natalini used unnerving effects such as slamming windows and, for a pivotal scene, a gnawing electric buzz. Since the set for the show was minimal, the overall tone was highly dependent on lighting and sound.

Master Carpenter Alex Bryce and a construction team created a raised platform, and the actors carried small set pieces on and off stage. The costumes, coordinated by Shawn G. Byers, are those of typical teenagers, with the exception of the dowdy outfits of Carrie White, a bullied misfit with a dangerous secret. When a cruel prom-night prank finally pushes Carrie’s past her limits, horror and carnage ensues.

Katie Puschel (Carrie White). Photo courtesy of Dominion Stage.
Katie Puschel (Carrie White). Photo courtesy of Dominion Stage.

Overall, the acting is solid, though some performances could use some polishing. Katie Puschel does a fine job as Carrie, a timid girl who is ostracized by her classmates. Puschel covers a wide range of emotion, from reclusive and coy to hopeful (highlighted in the number “Why Not Me?”) and finally, downright murderous.

Carrie is unable to find comfort in her religiously zealous mother, Margaret (Claudia Love Petty). Petty delivers strong vocals in the number “And Eve was Weak,” where she buries Carrie in judgment and accusations. Her character is abusive and arguably deranged, and Petty does a great job with the role– one of the best songs of the night was the emotionally raw “When There’s No One.”

Another great voice in the ensemble is that of Ashley Zielinski, shown in the number “Once You See.” Zielinski plays Sue Snell, Carrie’s lone sympathizer amongst her peers and the vehicle for the plot; the story unfolds as Sue recounts prom night to an unseen investigator.

Rachel Barlaam is fiery and furious as Chris Hagensen, and her song “The World According to Chris” was energetic, though unfortunately, at my performance, almost completely shrouded by live music and mic feedback.

I particularly enjoyed the number “A Night We’ll Never Forget,” which the excited students sing as they get ready for their ill-fated prom night.

Carrie the musical cast image and dominion

Choreographer Patrick M. Doneghy creates fine group choreography for this number, though my favorite choreography happens during the pivotal scene (who would think a mass-murder would make for a creative dance routine?)

I enjoyed myself, technical issues aside. The mental and emotional aspects of this story are worth exploring– how much abuse can one person endure before they become unreachable? The one thing about Carrie The Musical that cannot be argued is the fact that it is unique, which definitely makes for an interesting theatrical experience.

Running Time: Two hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

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Carrie the Musical plays through November 7 2015 at Gunston Theater Two– 2700 South Lang Street, in Arlington, VA. Purchase your tickets at the door or online.

Dominion Stage Opens its 66th Season with ‘Carrie The Musical’ October 23-November 7th by Katerina Figurski.


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