REVIEW: Famous flop gets new life as kids shine again

Some of the cast of Act II's Carrie: The Musical.
Some of the cast of Act II's Carrie: The Musical.
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  • Singing, dancing... and murder thrill audience
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By Act II, at The Elizabethan Centre, Whaplode Drove

I’ve been a huge fan of Stephen King since I first picked up one of his novels at an airport 25 years ago. I think I’ve read everything he’s put into print now and I could not imagine any of his works being developed into a musical... especially this one.

But fair play to Lawrence D. Cohen for the idea and even more kudos for Act II taking on what the New York Times described in 1988 as “ the most expensive quick flop in Broadway history”.

The show, however, was reprised in 2012 with changes to the plot and the songs, and this is the one tackled by Act II.

The story centres on Carrie White, an outcast high school girl with a religious zealot mum. When bullied by her peers she exhibits her long-held and strengthening telekinetic powers and when a cruel trick plays out on prom night she unleashes her wrath and destroys her school, her classmates and her mother.

And, as usual Act II put their oiwn special take on proceedings. Rather than their usual South Holland Centre venue, audience members picked their tickets up there and were given a map to their location. The drive to the isolated village hall, in the dark, on a cold winter’s night, was the perfect prelude to what was to follow.

Seren Cave was quite magnificent as Carrie

Seren Cave was quite magnificent as Carrie

On arrival we were all treated as party goers as we walked into the transformed Elizabethan Centre and had our prom pictures taken. Even the programme was produced as the Chamberlain High School Yearbook.

The scenes were acted out in Carrie’s home at one end of the hall, the school classroom at the other end and the other scenes in the middle, with the audience on both sides.

There was a relatively small cast of 14 teenagers but they filled the hall with their energy and spirit.

Seren Cave was quite magnificent as Carrie and her transformation from dowdy frump to popular prom goer and finally to crazed killer was wonderful. She bloomed, wilted and burnt in the part.

I’ve always thought of Dominique Spinks as one of Act II’s shining lights and her portrayal of Carrie’s mum Margaret was also superb

I’ve always thought of Dominique Spinks as one of Act II’s shining lights and her portrayal of Carrie’s mum Margaret was also superb. Her beautiful singing, often in duet with Seren, was one of the evening’s highlights.

In fact all of the singing was of a pretty good standard, backed up by a very good band.

Molly Riches and Theo Duddridge also shone as high school sweethearts Sue Snell and Tommy Ross. Molly played the part of the philanthropic Sue and was particularly impressive as she narrated the most horrific parts of the story in a police interview room.

Theo nailed the role of school hero Tommy and the likeable personalty that shone through in last year’s musical Made In Dagenham once again came to the fore.

Rebe Hawes played school bad boy Billy Nolan with all the swagger of John Travolta in the original 1976 film version of Carrie and Ashleigh Mills seemed to revel as pretty but poisonous girlfriend Chris Hargensen, the architect of all Carrie’s misery.

The rest of the cast had less lines but played equally importrant roles, often acting out school yard or prom hall scenes.

They were Charlotte Charleston-Stokes as Miss Gardner, Morgan Agate as Ms Stephens, Zyta Tunley as Norma, Lily Bergin as Frieda, Alex Gilman as Helen, Rory Prestt as George, Findley Smylie as Stokes and Becky Girrard as Freddy.

I know the good people at Act II were worried people would not attend such a show bearing in mind its subject matter and rural location but, like me, they knew the kids would pull it off with aplomb once again. And they certainly did.

Jeremy Ransome