Review: ‘Carrie, The Musical’ at Workhouse Arts Center

It’s that time of year again, when there’s a bit of Pumpkin Spice in everything and Halloween themes are taking over. The Workhouse Arts Center is doing its part to add a bit of horror into the air with its production of Carrie, The Musical.

Barbara Lawson as Carrie in 'Carrie, The Musical' at Workhouse Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Jeff Davis.
Barbara Lawson as Carrie in ‘Carrie, The Musical’ at Workhouse Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Jeff Davis.

Jeff Davis and Mary Payne both serve as Director and Choreographer for the show, which is based on the novel by Stephen King, with music by Michael Gore, book by Lawrence Chen, and Lyrics by Dean Pitchford.

The musical is true to the original and follows Carrie White, a quiet, unpopular, awkward teen who has the misfortune of starting her period after gym class in a very public fashion. Kids can be cruel, as Carrie is mocked for her ignorance about what is happening to her body and news of the scene spreads through the school. But Carrie’s womanhood is not the only change, she has also begun to discover she has powers of telekinesis, which she eventually masters, giving her the confidence to stand up for herself and fight back against the world that treated her so terribly.

The original Broadway production flopped in glorious fashion and has become a cult classic with a fanatical following of lovers and haters. But the material remains relevant due to its themes of adolescent angst and struggling to fit in, which is highlighted in the show’s opening number, “In.” The lyrics say it all:

“I’d crawl out of my skin
And so would you, cause
Life just doesn’t begin
Until you’re in!”

Due to the material’s reputation, Carrie is the kind of show that demands the actors go all-in at 150% in order to outshine the juxtaposition of a musical horror that is not a dark comedy. And this cast delivers on that dedication and energy.

Barbara Lawson is Carrie and plays to the character’s defeated demeanor with an underlying resentment building beneath the surface. Carrie sings of her desire for revenge in “Carrie.” Lawson puts meaning and full-throttled emotion into the words

“Momma says suffering is good for the soul
But they hurt me!
And if I could, I’d bring them all down to their knees
I’d make them sorry forever for teasing Carrie”

The conflicted Sue Snell is played by Kimberly Geipel. Sue is remorseful about her role in Carrie’s teasing and tries to make it up to her by convincing her boyfriend (and all-around good guy), Tommy Ross (Chris Rios), to take Carrie to prom and make her feel like she belongs. The two sing “Do Me a Favor” and it becomes clear that these two truly are trying to do the right thing. But teenage logic is an oxymoron and we know how the plan goes.

The cast of Workhouse Arts Center's 'Carrie, The Musical': Barbara Lawson, (front row) Chelsea Majors, Casey Fero, Ian Pathak, Becky Levin, Amanda Mason (back row) Michael Omohundro, Kimberly Geipel, Chris Rios, Andrea Newsome, Sydney Cluff, Christine Maxted. Photo courtesy of Workhouse Arts Center.
The cast of Workhouse Arts Center’s ‘Carrie, The Musical’: Barbara Lawson, (front row) Chelsea Majors, Casey Fero, Ian Pathak, Becky Levin, Amanda Mason (back row) Michael Omohundro, Kimberly Geipel, Chris Rios, Andrea Newsome, Sydney Cluff, Christine Maxted. Photo courtesy of Workhouse Arts Center.

Mary Payne is Margaret White, Carrie’s mother who takes religious extremism to a new level. Margaret believes that Carrie starting her cycle is a sign that she has strayed from God and demands her daughter repent in “And Eve Was Weak.”

Payne’s voice is perfect for the gothic style of the music and her performance is downright terrifying, in the best possible way. In fact, all the vocals in the show are laudable, which is a nod to Vocal Director, Chelsea Majors.

Majors also plays the cruel Chris Hargensen, the ringleader of the girls who taunt Carrie. The kids sing “The World According to Chris” excusing their behavior as necessary with a “dog eat dog” mentality and Majors harping on ‘why should she be sorry for being better at everything?’ The sentiment is ecstatically amplified by her crass and loud-mouthed boyfriend, Billy Nolan (Casey Fero) and the rest of their entourage.

The production overall is an impressive success. I went on opening night and the show had some bumpy scene changes and kinks with the sound, but nothing that can’t be resolved or that distracted too much from the outstanding job by the cast.

The Workhouse’s production of Carrie, The Musical is an amazing display of talent. The musical will satisfy the love of nostalgia for King’s classic horror tale, raise your pulse, and get you in the haunting and mysterious mood that is craved in autumn.

Running Time: Approximately two hours, with one 15-minute intermission.

Carrie, The Musical plays through November 2nd, 2019, at Workhouse Arts Center – 9518 Workhouse Way, Lorton, VA. For tickets, call (703) 584-2900 or purchase them online.

Cast: Barbara Lawson (Carrie White), Mary Payne (Margaret White),  Kimberly Geipel (Sue Snell), Chris Rios (Tommy Ross), Chelsea Majors (Chris Hargensen), Casey Fero (Billy Nolan), Anna Phillips-Brown (Miss Gardner), Michael Omohundro (Mr. Stephens), Becky Levin (Helen), Amanda Mason (Norma), Andrea Newsome (Frieda), Kyle Boardman (George), Ian Pathak (Freddy), Garvey Dobbins (Stokes), Sydney Cluff (Swing)

Production: Jeff Davis (Direction/Choreography), Mary Payne (Direction/Choreography), Matt Majors (Musical Direction/Sound Design), Chelsea Majors (Vocal Direction), Danny Seal (Production Stage Manager), Brad Waller (Stage Combat Consultant), Jeremy MacDuff (Scenic Design), Kelly G. Brackley (Lighting Design), Brian Bachrach (Lighting Technician), Clare Pfeifer (Sound Design/Sound Technician), Mary Omohundro (Costume Design), Barbara Payne (Costuming Crew), Mary Beth Smith Toomey (Costuming Crew), Joseph Wallen (Carpenter/Electrician)


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