Olivia Duff in Carrie The Musical. Photo: Acting Against Cancer

Carrie The Musical

Music by Michael Gore
Lyrics by Dean Pitchford
Book by Lawrence D. Cohen
Directed by Charlie Meredith

Review by Annette Skaggs


Entire contents are copyright © 2018 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.

Since 1976 the Stephen King novel turned movie Carrie has been haunting audiences with its story and iconic visual effects.

Carrie White (Olivia Duff), the daughter of overly religious mother Margaret (Julie Riehm McGuffey), is experiencing what many of us have experienced, the dreaded senior year of high school. But for Carrie, this passage into adulthood is marred by several factors, such as, an overprotective mother and classroom bullies, especially Chris Hargensen (Sara Troxel). After a life changing event during gym class where Carrie was mercilessly teased by the “popular” girls, one of the bullies, Sue Snell (Clara Wilson) began to show remorse for her behavior toward outcast Carrie and tried to convince the others to start treating her a bit better. Unfortunately that request, by and large, fell on deaf ears.

Fast-forward and the students are gearing up for the Prom. While gathered together in one of their last classes the students are asked by teacher Mr. Stephens (Sean Donaldson) to read their final theme paper. Despite some hesitation and ribbing from his classmates, especially Chris’ boyfriend Billy Nolan (Remy Sisk), Tommy Ross (Justin White), Sue’s boyfriend, reads his work: “Dreamer in Disguise”. After its reading, Carrie shares aloud how it touched her. Immediately the others begin to make fun of her. When gym teacher Ms. Gardner (Joy Beth DeWitt) caught wind of further classroom torments toward Carrie she confronted the girls and demanded that they each apologize to Carrie. While Sue’s apology was heartfelt and sincere, the others were half-hearted, save for Chris, who refused to apologize at all. Because of her refusal, she was not allowed to attend prom.

Filled with anger, Chris goes to Billy and the two plot revenge against Carrie. While studying one night Sue’s thoughts turn to Carrie and how unfair she has been to her and asks Tommy to invite Carrie to the prom (“Do Me a Favor”). Of course, Tommy is hesitant to do so, but eventually agrees. After she accepts, she shares the good news with her mother, who forbids Carrie to go. She begins telling Carrie of the night that she was conceived (“I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance”) and the sins that prom can bring. Despite her mother’s demand, Carrie uses a new found power that causes Margaret to recoil.

The night of the Prom all of the attendees seem to be having a good time, until the announcement of the King and Queen of the Prom. Wanting to see how the evening is going Sue sneaks into the gym and notices that the ballot slips have been switched around by Norma, who had been conspiring with Chris and Billy who can be seen hanging out in the rafters. As Carrie and Tommy’s names are called….well…let’s just say that Hell breaks loose (“The Destruction”).

One of the attributes of Acting Against Cancer is that they can really cast a show. The ladies and gentlemen that are on stage and behind the scenes have talent that goes way beyond what we are seeing in Carrie the Musical. For instance, Olivia Duff has a knack for not only pulling off what appeared to be a near flawless Carrie, but she was a developer for IBM and UPS. And how about Justin White, whose Tommy was just about the sweetest character on stage, and has a resume that includes Speech Pathology and is looking to go to Medical School. That’s pretty darn impressive. Not to mention that Remy Sisk, one of the co-founders of AAC and a truly nice guy, plays royal douche Billy with little effort. Just as Sara Troxel adds all kinds of devious sex kitten to her character, Chris. Did you know that Clara Wilson, whose Sue was the even-keeled heroine that she should be, is studying Political Science? Speaking of, not only does Julie Riehm McGuffey know how to play a crazy mom and sing like a lark, but she’s got a legal mind, too. As does Sean Donaldson, who has the ability to be the voice of reason as Mr. Stephens, as well as in the real world. There are so many talents within this field of actors, dancers, singers and the production company that it is an embarrassment of riches.

When you have the musical talents of Gayle King, John Austin Clark, Michael Vettraino, Dave Neill, Benji Simmons, and newcomer Etana Garfinkle, well, it doesn’t get much better. The renowned Jesse AlFord lends his expertise to some clever lighting effects as does Corie Caudill for scenic designs. Unfortunately, the sound left a lot to be desired. Often times the singer’s mics were too low or not turned on and the orchestration would drown out their voice, while other times the mics would be too loud and muddled up dialogue and/or songs. The sound quality seemed too cavernous and could have been adjusted for the room, which boasts of high ceilings and concrete walls, which cause a distorted noise that distracts from the enjoyment.

Despite the sound quality, I felt that director Charlie Meredith had a firm handle on the direction, and a special tip of the hat to those in the design and technical crew who were able to pull off some pretty cool theatrical magic!

It is not hard to figure out how deeply appropriate this musical is for today and how timeless it has become. Yes, at its core it was supposed to be about a young woman with destructive supernatural powers. But if you look deeper it really is about what high school and life in general is all about and what most of us, if not all of us, have faced or continue to face in our lives: bullying, self-doubt, self-loathing, confidence, attraction, appreciation and acceptance. Truthfully I could go on and on about the depths of this musical, but I think it would behoove you to go to Art Sanctuary and experience it first-hand. As I watched I was entrenched into the dialogues and lyrics and could not shake the feeling of “been there done that”. But it goes even farther, in that some of today’s bullied kids are similar to Carrie in their own ways and are much scarier. Is this a cautionary tale? And as the show ends we are left with a burning question, one that Mr. Meredith asks in his Director’s Notes, “What does it cost to be kind?” Many questions. Fewer answers.

Bravi Tutti!!

Carrie The Musical

June 8, 9, 14, 15 & 16 @ 8:00pm
June 10 & 17 @ 5:30pm

Acting Against Cancer
At Art Sanctuary
1433 South Shelby Street
Louisville, KY 40217


Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.