Saturday, March 2, 2013

Applause! Applause! Review of Carrie: The Musical at Cultural Arts Playhouse by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Carrie: The Musical performed at the Cultural Arts Playhouse was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 3 (2013) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Carrie: The Musical
Cultural Arts Playhouse (625 Old Country Road, Plainview, NY)
Reviewed 3/1/13

Carrie: The Musical is adapted from Stephen King's novel Carrie. The book is by Lawrence D. Cohen, lyrics by Dean Pitchford, and music by Michael Gore. It focuses on a shy, socially awkward teenage girl with telekinetic powers who suffers bullying by her social peers as well as by her religiously fanatic mother. The show opened on Broadway in 1988 at the Virginia Theatre but closed after only 16 previews and 5 performances. In 2012, there was an Off-Broadway revival of Carrie: The Musical with a revised score and book that opened at the Lucille Lortel Theatre by MCC Theater. It closed after 34 previews and 46 performances. This Regional Premiere of Carrie: The Musical at Cultural Arts Playhouse was directed by Tony Frangipane. 

This production of Carrie: The Musical is dominated by the extraordinary performances of five very talented women. Ashley Nicastro, who plays Carrie White, does a masterful job of portraying the internal struggles of a shy teenager struggling to break free of the guilt instilled in her by her ignorant, fundamentalist, religious mother. Ariann Miller Forella puts in a powerful performance as Carrie's mother, Margaret White, who turned to religion after her daughter's father abandoned her, who believes a woman's period is a curse, and who can rationalize killing her daughter as a biblical duty. Alyssa Caracciolo plays Chris Hargensen, the bitch from Hell who triggers the massacre at the Prom by arranging for pig blood to be spilt over Carrie after she is elected Prom Queen. Ms. Caracciolo never waivers out of character as a selfish, vicious spoiled brat who can date anyone she wishes but who chooses a bad boy to anger her father.  Alyson Rogers exhibits the complex nature of Sue Snell, who regrets making fun of Carrie White and tries to make things right by asking her boyfriend, Tommy Ross, to take Carrie to the prom. Ms. Rogers is attractive and charismatic as the student with a conscience. Finally, Taneisha Corbin is believable as Miss Gardner, a gym teacher, who tries to befriend Carrie and to stop students from taunting and picking on her.

The two men who stood out for me in this cast were Nick Mannino, who played the good-hearted and well-intentioned Tommy Ross and Michael Marmann, who played George Dawson, a student with homosexual inclinations and a definite crush on Tommy (the photo at the prom clinched it for me). Mr. Mannino handles the multi-faceted role of Tommy Ross with precision. Tommy is part of the "in" crowd, but at the same time, he is a sensitive guy (a jock who secretly aspires to be a writer) who treats his girlfriend, Sue Snell, with respect and shows compassion when dealing with Carrie. Michael Marmann as George Dawson does not have a major role in this production but he does successfully portray a High School student who, given the chance, would be open to having an intimate relationship with a man. Given Mr. Marmann's extremely attractive hairy legs, I suspect he could keep anyone warm under the sheets on a cold winter's night. Michael Marmann is very talented and always a pleasure to see in any production.

I highly recommend you see Carrie: The Musical at Cultural Arts Playhouse. It is a rare find and an enjoyable night at the theater. It is a musical with an important message about the psychological harm caused by bullying. Sticks and stones may break your bones but your bones will one day heal. Emotional scars can last a lifetime and after repeated bullying, the reaction may one day be rage. 

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