Young actors ‘Carrie’ EPAC’s newest production

By on October 21, 2015

I almost killed Stephen King.

Well, my in-laws and I almost killed Stephen King. Despite his near creepy style and twisted imagination, King is actually a really nice guy. Ask Maine’s Bangor West Little League players what they think of their hometown writer in residence who dropped over $1 million into their state of the art stadium in the city of 32,000 people.

King is not too scary to them. In fact, King is practically a man of the people. He loves baseball, jigsaw puzzles, and playing the guitar. His Bangor home — although iron-fenced with gargoyles and spiders — is on a normal side street, with normal neighbors, in a normal section of Bangor. This provides opportunity to tourists and literary travelers to sneak a quick peak at the horror writer’s life. While entertaining out of state guests when I lived in Maine, I would often trek to the city and show off King’s home.

On one excursion, my in-laws and I took a gander at his ornate property and were about to leave when I spied King getting into his Mercedes. A quick U-turn put our vehicle right next to the entrance to his driveway. When he pulled out he was met with a Chevy Suburban full of excited, waving Pennsylvanians. He smiled and waved back, but this little moment caused quite a distraction as he pulled forward onto the street right into the path of an oncoming car. Tires screeched. We all screamed. King managed to stop his vehicle inches before being t-boned. He simply just drove away.

And that is how it came to pass that I almost killed Stephen King. This is always the first story I tell people when King becomes a topic of conversation, and it is apropos since I recently saw EPAC’s rendition of “Carrie: The Musical,” which opened Thursday, Oct. 15.

Just in time for Halloween, EPAC presents something “scary” for fans of the performing arts. Based on Stephen King’s 1974 novel, “Carrie,” the two-act musical documents a trying time in the life of Carrie White (Natalie Young), a socially awkward teen who does not fit in at her high school. Formed by an overbearing, God-fearing, single mother, Carrie cannot adjust to her contemporaries and becomes the subject of ridicule by her classmates. Leading the charge against Carrie is Chris Hargensen (Rachel Faust), who is determined to make Carrie’s school life a living hell after she draws sympathy from Chris’ friend Sue Snell (Heather Bounds) and is suspended from the prom. To exact her revenge, Chris enlists her blowhard boyfriend to publicly ridicule Carrie on the evening of the big dance. Just as in the book, the agent provocateur schemes to drop a bucket of pig’s blood on Carrie just as she takes the prom queen crown. Then, all hell breaks loose, and Carrie uses her powers of telekinesis to destroy her enemies.

 

Natalie Young plays the title character in “Carrie: The Musical,” showing through Oct. 31 at Ephrata Performing Arts Center. Purchase tickets at ephrataperformingartscenter.com. (Photo by K. Scott Kreider)

Natalie Young plays the title character in “Carrie: The Musical,” showing through Oct. 31 at Ephrata Performing Arts Center. Purchase tickets at ephrataperformingartscenter.com. (Photo by K. Scott Kreider)

 

“Carrie: The Musical” starts off rocking with the number “In,” where theatergoers are introduced to gym teacher Miss Gardner (Tricia Corcran) and the girls, but soon lulls into a humdrum harangue filled with musical numbers serving only to move along the plot. The first act ends with a powerful performance by Carrie and her mother (Bobbi Bear), but “I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance” becomes only a bookend to mediocre storytelling.

Are we meant to take “Carrie: The Musical” seriously? I can’t quite tell. The true story lies somewhere between tragedy and farce. Think “High School Musical” meets the illegitimate stepchild of “Grease” and “Phantom of the Opera” and the end product will be “Carrie: The Musical.” The original Broadway run of the show in 1988 lasted only five performances and was met with scathing reviews.

I echo the concerns voiced by Frank Rich (“The New York Times”) who called the show a “musical wreck.” Later revivals (2012 off-Broadway, 2015 London’s West End, and 2015 Los Angeles) weathered the critics’ storm better, but not without piercing rebuffs of one sort or another. At the outset of the off-Broadway revival in 2012, The New Yorker asked, “Is ‘Carrie’ the Worst Musical of All Time?” Writer Michael Schulman seems to think so (but many of his peers point to superhero musical “Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark”).

Despite a love for the horror genre and an affinity for musicals, “Carrie” was just not my cup of pig’s blood … or tea for that matter.

But, don’t leave early. The second act is far better than the first. And despite my personal tastes for the show EPAC has a victory in its mitts with “Carrie: The Musical.” For the show, Director Edward Fernandez has tapped the theater’s vast resources of young talent molded by their Center Stage Summer Theater Camp and annual Kids 4 Kids productions. Those who follow the young actors of the EPAC community will recognize Bounds (Ursula in this year’s “Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr.”), Meredith Fox (Dorothy in 2014’s “Wizard of Oz Young Performers Edition”) and ensemble member and EPAC regular Laird Farrington. Welcome Andrew Patterson, who plays Sue Snell’s love interest; during his EPAC debut the performer was confident and radiated an easy likeability making it simple for viewers to understand and appreciate his character.

Via “Carrie: The Musical” there is talent on the EPAC stage. It is definitely not a fault, merely a difference, but Young is too charming to carry the demented innocence Sissy Spacek did in the 1976 movie adaptation many readers may be most familiar with. Young is another kind of Carrie, compassionate and reclusive, but ready to strike with vengeance when the time comes. If anything, EPAC’s “Carrie: The Musical” showed the world all the young talent it has at its disposal. The future is bright, not for Carrie White, but for the future of the local acting community.

Michael C. Upton works as a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure, covering subjects ranging from funk punk to fine wine. He invites your comments and suggestions at facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

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