A Telekinetic, Teenage Tragedy

Carrie White is a special girl.  Sure she’s bullied and ostracized by her classmates, but she is a special girl.  And maybe her mother abuses her psychologically and emotionally, but she really is a special girl.  Do you want to know how special?  Just make her angry.  But I wouldn’t advise it.  For, if you do, you won’t live long enough to regret it.  Find out how special Carrie White is in Carrie:  The Musical adapted by Lawrence D. Cohen from a novel by Stephen King with music composed by Michael Gore and lyrics written by Dean Pitchford and currently playing at SNAP! Productions.

I admit to not being much of a fan of Stephen King’s horror works.  I’ve only read one of his books and have seen roughly six of his macabre tales. Now I have watched the film version of Carrie and I consider it to be the deepest of his horror novels.  Let me correct that.  It isn’t a horror novel.  Carrie is a tragedy with some undertones of horror.  It is actually an eye opening look at the evil of bullying.  I also admit that I was glad to review this show because I found it to be one of the top productions of the theatre season.

I congratulate Todd Brooks for a truly impressive piece of stage and music direction.  He treated the subject matter with respect and did fine work leading the score.  I also thought he told the story exceptionally well as he and his troupe of actors led us through the pain of Carrie’s existence, yet managed to drop little nuggets of hope for her before epically yanking the rug out from under her feet.  Brooks also drew very good performances out of his thespians who provided a well acted, well sung tale.

I always appreciate choruses who understand the vital part they play in shows.  Each and every member of this chorus stay involved with every moment of the show, providing fresh and strong characterizations that really livened things up.  This particular chorus also had the best harmonization I have ever heard, best exemplified in “A Night We’ll Never Forget”.

Notable performances were supplied by Josh Polack as Billy Nolan, the dimwitted and mean-spirited boyfriend of Carrie’s nemesis and Mike Burns’ portrayal of Tommy Ross, one of the few decent students at Carrie’s school.  Burns had one of the night’s best numbers as his pleasant tenor touched hearts with “Tommy’s Poem (Dreamer in Disguise)”.

Gigi Hausman really shines in the title role of Carrie White in her SNAP! debut.  Ms Hausman has incredible body language as the put upon Carrie as she closes herself off from the rest of her classmates with her clasped hands, slumped shoulders, and downward gaze.  My heart truly ached from the loneliness and sadness she communicated and she nicely evolves Carrie from mousey to somewhat confident and hopeful when Tommy asks her to the prom and she learns how to control her telekinesis to her final snapping after a cruel prank causes her to unleash the full fury of her power on the school.

Ms Hausman was equally moving on the singing side as her soprano pleaded for God’s help in “Evening Prayers” and was quietly optimistic in “Why Not Me?”

Sara Planck is scary in her role of Margaret White.  And what really sells it is how real and normal she appears.  Ms Planck’s Margaret seems like a regular mom, if a little overprotective, until she starts spouting the drivel that Carrie’s first period was a sign of sin.  Then you realize that she’s a neurotic with a religious mania who crooks scripture to satisfy her warped view of God and locks Carrie in an underground cell to pray for forgiveness due to her own guilt of having conceived of a child outside of wedlock.

Ms Planck’s alto nearly stole the night as she tells Carrie “And Eve Was Weak”, confesses about the night she succumbed to temptation in “I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance”, and goes soprano when she laments “When There’s No One” after she calmly decides to sacrifice Carrie, mistaking her telekinesis for demonic power.

Paloma Power also makes a fine debut with SNAP! as Sue Snell, the play’s narrator.  Ms Power’s Sue bullies Carrie at the start of the show, but genuinely regrets her actions and tries to makes amends through apology and then by getting her boyfriend, Tommy, to take Carrie to the prom.  Ms Power brings a real goodness and decency to the role and she also understands Carrie better than anyone, sharing how she sees the burning cauldron of pain beneath the quiet shell when she beautifully sings “Once You See”.

I was thoroughly repulsed by Chris Hargensen as played by Laurel Rothamel.  And, yes, that is a very high compliment.  I cannot recall a character that I detested as much as I did Chris.  Ms Rothamel’s interpretation is astonishing.  She is so cruel, so nasty, so slutty, so spoiled, and so vindictive that I found myself wishing someone would slap the taste out of her mouth and I’m a pretty peaceful, easy-going guy.  Even more amazing, she actually made me feel a tiny bit of sympathy for her when she implied that her bullying nature is the by-product of being beaten by her father, a ruthless attorney, in the night’s most fun number, “The World According to Chris”.

Jason DeLong deserves extremely high praise for his choreography which was not only fun and creative, but managed to be flowing and big despite the confines of the small theatre.  Megan Bollanger’s set invoked memories of high school dances from yesteryear.  Leah Skorupa’s costumes were pitch perfect from Carrie’s frumpy outfit to Chris’ vampy clothes to the elegant prom gear.  Joshua Mullady proves that he may be the city’s best lighting designer as his lights once more become extra characters in the show as they enhanced scenes with evil reds, hopeful glows, and soft romance.  Daena Schweiger’s sound and visuals really added that something extra to the show.

There were a few missed notes during some of the songs and some of the cast needed to speak up and project more, but this is a quality production.  The numbers are catchy, the story is surprisingly profound, and the acting is quite powerful.  Get yourself a ticket to see this as, as the cast sings, it’ll be a night you’ll never forget.

Carrie:  The Musical continues at SNAP! Productions through June 25.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 8pm and Sundays at 6pm.  The June 25 show and an additional matinee on June 17 will be at 2pm.  Tickets are $25 ($20 for students, TAG members, Military, and seniors (55+) and all Thursday shows).  For tickets, call 402-341-2757 or visit www.snapproductions.com.  Due to strong language and mature themes, Carrie:  The Musical is not recommended for children.  SNAP! Productions is located at 3225 California Street in Omaha, NE.

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