Musical theater majors at USM sacrificed their Halloween plans last week to celebrate the night by bringing a classic New England horror story to life at Corthell Music Hall.
Only eight months ago, the rights to release CARRIE the Musical became available, and the USM School of Music didn’t waste any time bringing the story back to its original setting: Maine. Thankfully for USM students, the small high school in Maine – Ewen High – is just an invention from the mind of the native Mainer and acclaimed horror novelist Stephen King. The show was just in time, with the remake of the original film recently creeping into theaters across America.
Director Edward Reichert selected the show with the cast and audience in mind. “I picked this piece to showcase the talent we have in the USM Musical Theatre Department,” said Reichert.
The story follows Carrie, an outcast teenage girl with telekinetic powers, who is living a lonely life with an oppressive mother. She is often the butt of cruel jokes at her high school, and when she is humiliated at prom by her classmates, she unleashes her powers, wreaking havoc on the school and her hometown.
For most of the students involved in the show, the experience has been their first real horror show performance.
“This entire time I haven’t been thinking of this as a horror show,” said senior musical theater major Danie Lane. “I’ve been thinking of it as a story and [of] Margaret as a real person with a real problem who never got help.”
Lane plays Margaret, Carrie’s overbearing mother.
“I’ve done a lot of comedies,” Lane said. “Although there are comedic moments within the show, my character doesn’t touch a funny moment. That’s what largely separates her from roles in my past.”
For most of the cast, including lead actress Eileen Hanley a senior musical theater major who plays Carrie, some research had to be done into the characters and storyline of the book and film as well as the show production.
“I really tried to decipher the different texts to find out how I wanted people to perceive my Carrie and how I could make her my own,” said Hanley. “It is so important to know everything you can possibly know about the character you’re portraying.”
Blood and fear are crucial aspects in this production––but with show tunes––the cast usually returning home from practice scrubbing the stains out of their clothing. Junior musical theater major and cast member Liz Kershenbaum describes the pressure of doing justice to the literary legend – King.
“I’m not sure what Stephen King had in mind while writing Carrie, but something tells me it was not a rockin’ contemporary musical theater score,” said Kershenbaum.
The entire musical side of the production was under the direction of senior piano performance major Kellie Moody. This was her first time acting as a musical director, which includes learning the music, teaching the cast their parts and directing a five-piece band from behind a piano.
The show’s overall intent is to humanize the drama; to make it easier for the audience to relate to, according to the cast. “I hope that, if nothing else, people take away the message of spreading good, knowing that everyone is fighting their own battle and that it costs absolutely nothing to be kind,” said Hanley.