Carrie: the Musical

Theatre, Musicals
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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This cult musical flop is back from the grave

Whether you think Stephen King’s 1974 novel ‘Carrie’ is a key feminist tract or just a spot of lurid prose, there’s no denying it’s the height of horror. Blood, death, bullying, telekinesis and abuse: it’s an unsettling mix of ‘Matilda’, ‘Misery’ and ‘Mean Girls’, and the 1988 musical, here running in London for the first time, revels in the darkness.

The RSC’s original production was a notorious disaster, plagued by technical issues (a cast member almost lost her bonce) before heading to Broadway to monumentally flop. Chances are ’80s musical crowds could only take so much gruesome murder and child abuse, but in the edgy 240-seater Southwark Playhouse it feels right at home. Director Gary Lloyd’s excellent, in-your-face revival, with spooky charred high-school designs, fits the space perfectly. It’s an ambitious production, but the show’s many levitating tricks come off surprisingly well.

King’s story follows high school outcast Carrie who is controlled by her religious nut mother. Carrie gets her first period in the school showers and thinks she’s bleeding to death while the popular girls take the piss. That’s not the only change puberty inflicts: she discovers she can move stuff with her mind and the plot cumulates in a prom scene where our heroine has a great time until someone plays a trick on her and she exacts a brutal revenge on, literally, everybody.

Lawrence D Cohen, Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford’s musical doesn’t have standout songs, but overall it’s a punchy, well-constructed affair, with the tracks sung by the kids upbeat and the numbers between Carrie and her mother almost operatic. You need strong leads for these tunes and Lloyd’s found an astonishing voice in Evelyn Hoskins, whose range is superb. She’s a wide-eyed alien-like Carrie and her freight train voice holds the show together. There’s strong support here too, from Kim Criswell as Carrie’s mother and the ensemble cast.     

It’s an intensely over the top affair, and the finale is audaciously vicious, but somehow Lloyd’s horror-infused production – helped by a spooky echoing soundscape – makes it work.  Plus, most enjoyable is getting to watch a host of irritating jocks get a nasty comeuppance.

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