Pauper Players' “Carrie: The Musical”
Friday, 7:00 p.m.
In an aesthetic blend of cheery melody and grim motifs, Pauper Players' “Carrie: The Musical” brought a darkly, high-camp look at teenage oppression to the Historic Playmakers Theatre.
Adapted from the classic tale of horror by Stephen King, Carrie: The Musical tells the story of a young, out of touch girl trying to survive in the jungle of high school.
Berated by her obsessively religious mother and laughed at by her peers, the girl soon discovers she has telekinetic abilities and struggles to understand why she feels so isolated from everyone.
The production digs deep into the pressures of being a teenage, examining the lives of Carrie’s school mates as well as her own. Instead of the focus being solely on Carrie’s new found powers and struggle, the central theme is about being young and fighting to find how to fit into the world.
The show’s scenic design worked well for the intimate space of the theater, combining a fairly small set with a lot of moving and integrated pieces. It relied on the characters to drive home different ideas rather than elaborate setting, which played off the intimacy well and directed more attention to the characters as people.
What really hit home was the impressive integration of music into many of the play's technical elements. From the raspy, frightening tones accompanying Carrie’s displays of power to the dull shuddering sounds that signified transitions in scenery, the sound design kept the performance both lively and dark.
The backstage orchestra was superb throughout, emanating music that flowed from the stage through the theater. Of the many talented singers, Sarah Adams, who played Carrie’s teacher Miss Gardner, displayed incredible vocal talent, eliciting cheers from the audience during each song.
Carrie herself, played by Maggie Poole, did an impressive job of capturing wholesome tenderness and swelling anger, making her loss of control seem that much more powerful and justified.
While many of the characters seem initially stereotypical, it’s their idiosyncrasies and jokes that give them depth and build the audience members’ connection with them. When the story reaches its dark conclusion, the impact is all the more substantial because of how the audience has come to identify with the characters as caricatures of people they may have known.
The choreographer, Haley Smyser, also deserves special mention for her excellent management of the small space when coordinating the cast. The powerful physicality of their dancing, not to mention in the final prom scene, gave the performance a high energy level that tenaciously grabbed attention.
Where the production seemed off was in how thematically clear it was. There were times the stylization of a scene would overwhelm what felt like the main points, which could make parts of the performance seem unsure about what they were trying to convey.
Regardless of any ambiguity, the show presented a provoking exploration of the horrors of teenage life from perspectives of the oppressed and the oppressors. With stellar music and an enthusiastic cast, the audience gave the opening night a standing ovation, complete with whistles and cheers.
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