It is the end of the spooky season, but it is not too late to catch a spooky performance. Stephen King’s popular horror novel Carrie arrives in musical form to the Lincoln Hall Theatre. Illini Student Musicals (ISM) puts on the production of “Carrie the Musical,” putting their own spin on the musical that was adapted from the novel by Stephen King. Music was composed by Michael Gore and lyrics were written by Dean Pitchford for the original musical that premiered on Broadway in 1988.
The novel, originally published in 1974, is about a young teenager in high school named Carrie White, who is ridiculed and outcast by her classmates. She is also abused at home by her fanatically religious mother, Margaret. After an incident at school, where Carrie gets her first period, she is mocked by others lead by the school’s bully Chris. Chris receives the punishment of being banned from her senior prom and therefore plots revenge. Carrie begins to develop telekinetic powers after this, scaring her religious mother. Sue, another popular classmate, feels guilty about the incident and persuades her boyfriend Tommy to take Carrie to prom. At the prom, Chris enacts her revenge by dumping pig’s blood on Carrie, who in a fit of rage, destroys the school and kills everyone inside.
ISM’s production of “Carrie the Musical” stars sophomore Emma Stone, a communications major, as Carrie White. Emma also performed in ISM’s “Footloose.” Emma Stone has a great vocal range, and her rendition of the song “Carrie” is chilling. Sue Snell, played by Shelbi Voss, a junior majoring in journalism and former Illini Media company employee, gave an excellent performance as the sympathetic classmate who finally understands Carrie in the end. The show also include Sara Dolins as Margaret White, Jeremy Poyton as Tommy Ross, Aniliza May as Miss Gardner, and Riley Wilson as Chris Hargensen.
The entire cast was a perfect ensemble, and everyone performed with passion for the story being told.
This production of “Carrie the Musical” is directed by Caylei Hallberg. Hallberg is a senior studying theater studies and she has previous directorial experience with ISM, serving as a co-director for their production of “Mamma Mia!” last fall.
“I tried not to watch the movies, to not influence myself. I did read the book,” Hallberg said on how ISM’s production is unique to others.
She relied on the creativity and energy of her cast and crew and shaped the production around them. “We did a lot of character work in the beginning,” Hallberg states. She says they began by “talking to the cast” and utilizing the fact that “a lot of them are friends.” Hallberg said that she and everyone involved wanted to “build off those relationships.”
The story of Carrie addresses some sensitive themes and topics. Carrie White was abused both at school and at home, and audiences are witnesses to this throughout the story. Other themes of the play are the experiences of teenage anxiety and mass murder.
“We wanted to be careful,” Hallberg said about how the company approached the show’s themes.
She said that they were very conscious about the “nature of what’s going on in society” and the meaning of “mass murder in a school” in today’s context. ISM’s production does not shy away from those themes, but Hallberg said that they “made sure everyone [in the cast and crew] was comfortable” with these elements of the story.
The Illini Student Musicals has done an excellent job with their production of “Carrie the Musical” and their dedication is prevalent from the singing, the choreography, the stage design, to the theatricals presented through Carrie’s telekinetic powers. “Carrie the Musical” performances are taking place on November 7th, 8th, and 9th at 7:30 pm in Lincoln Hall Theatre.