Every summer The Theatre Lab mounts what director Aidan Quartana describes as “an intensive, learn-by-doing musical theater boot camp.” Over the course of four weeks, students are guided through the rehearsal and performance process of achieving full production of a demanding piece of musical theater. By engaging in the process they get the chance to develop “professional-level acting, voice, and movement skills.” For the summer 2023 production, The Theatre Lab chose Carrie: The Musical.
The opening night was beset with audio difficulties. It was also beset with energetic, focused, committed, disciplined, and effective performances from a cast of talented and uninhibited young students who are beginning their journey of learning the craft of theater performance and production.
The Broadway production of Carrie: The Musical was such a legendary bomb that author Ken Mandelbaum decided to title his survey of Broadway failures Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops.
Nevertheless, using this work, director Aidan Quartana, musical director Lucia LaNave, and choreographer Sara Laughland provided a rigorous curriculum that allowed the students to inhabit both the stage and their characters fully and unapologetically regardless of their current level of artistic development. Every performer on the stage seemed to embrace the individuality of their unique instruments (their bodies, voices, and minds) and to use their instrument to deliver performances that kept the audience riveted. The original Carrie: The Musical was a flop. But this production was invigorating and satisfying.
Quartana’s direction kept the audience focused on the action as it shifted quickly from one relationship to another and one space to another. Laughland’s choreography harnessed the teenage exuberance of the characters in such a way that every body type on stage was able to express that exuberance in their unique way. Music directors are truly God’s most underappreciated gifts to the world. LaNave’s musical guidance supported and propelled the performers’ deliveries of the score. We were never in doubt about the mood that was intended for each scene.
The show is a musical version of the movie, which itself was an adaptation of the Stephen King novel about a girl, Carrie, who has been raised by a mother who practices a rigid, sexually repressive, and isolating form of fundamentalist Christianity. Carrie attends public school, where her difference and insular distance from her secular peers make her a target of their misplaced disdain, which they express by teasing and bullying her. When she has her first menstrual period — which her mother, seeing it as the curse of Eve, has not taught her about — her peers publicly humiliate her. With the arrival of her menses, Carrie also develops telekinesis — the power to move objects with her mind. This power allows Carrie to wreak an apocalyptic revenge on her tormentors when they perpetrate a particularly cruel and public act of humiliation at the senior prom.
In this production, Carrie White is played by Gabrielle Minor with poise, grace, and nuanced restraint. Near the beginning of the second act, she sang “Why Not Me.” The song is a monolog in which Carrie, who is preparing for the prom she never expected to attend, and putting on makeup for the first time in her life, considers that it might be possible for her to live fully — and in the world outside of her mother’s house — as her newly discovered and developing self. The audience’s enthusiastic response was greatly deserved. Her mother, Margaret White, is played by Keymani Broadway. Her role in the cautionary duet with Carrie, “I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance,” was full of pain, regret, and foreboding. Casting these two makes the central family African American. While they are not the only people of African heritage/descent in the community depicted in this production, the choice to do color-aware casting rather than color-blind casting allowed the audience to think about how the intersections of race, ethnicity, gender and religion play into the disastrous conclusions of the story.
Carrie: The Musical was a rewarding choice for a summer engagement for students and audiences alike.
Running Time: Approximately two hours.
Carrie: The Musical plays through August 12, 2023, presented by The Theatre Lab’s Musical Theatre Institute for Teens, performing at Altas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St NE, Washington, DC. Tickets ($15, general admission; $10, students) are available at the box office, online, or by calling (202) 399-7993.
The program for Carrie, the Musical Carrie, the Musical is online here.
COVID Safety: Masks are recommended but not required. The Atlas health and safety policy is here.
Carrie: The Musical
Music by Michael Gore
Lyrics by Dean Pitchford
Book by Lawrence D. Cohen
Based on the novel by Stephen King
Carrie White: Gabrielle Minor
Margaret White: Keymani Broadway
Sue Snell: Micaela O’Rourke
Tommy Ross: Brett Medley
Chris Hargensen: Beatrice McNabb
Billy Nolan: Ross Donlan
Miss Gardner: Indigo O’Doherty
Mr. Stephens/Ensemble: Patro San
Norma/Ensemble: Kathryn Batitto
Frieda/Ensemble: Juliet Strom
Helen/Ensemble: Juliah Perdue
George/Ensemble: Jeremy Cronenberg
Stokes/Ensemble: Isaac Simon
Freddy/Ensemble: Cameron Best
Reverend Bliss/Ensemble: Joshua Pinchback
Interrogator 1/Ensemble: Caroline Hutchins
Interrogator 2/Ensemble: Pallavi Deroy
Helen Albert, Naia Albert, Kayleigh Berkoski, Michael Houle, Sonia Skolnik, Paola Sofia Winston-Vasquez, Ginger Von Klein
Creative Leadership Team
Director/Set Designer: Aidan Quartana
Music Director/Keys 1: Lucia LaNave
Assistant Director: Matt Calvert
Stage Manager: Justine Morris
Choreographer: Sarah Laughland
Production Manager/Sound Designer: Angelo Merenda
Technical Director: Ben Melton
Lighting Designer: Marianne Meadows
Costume Designer: Maria Bissex
Fight & Intimacy Choreographer: Casey Kaleba
Marketing Manager: Cassie Houy
Youth Program Director: Terah Herman-Saldaña,
AICA Program Manager: Carlos Saldaña
Assistant Stage Manager: Reina Ramos, Arnija Stegall
Light Board Operator: Luca Maggs
Spotlight Operator: Lorenzo Kenny
Sound Effects/Audio Assistant: Amee Barnes
Audio Engineer: Mardelle Singletone
Audio Assistant: Ashakilah Fenn, Sherry Gonzalez
Fly Crew: Cris De La Rosa, Khalil Potter
Run Crew: Leona Williams, Thalya Contreras
Wardrobe Crew: Shardia Stowbridge, Yliana Chicas
Dance Captains: Isaac Simon, Jeremy Cronenberg