NOTE TO READER: This review contains spoilers (Paragraph 9)
I attended the evening show of LUU’s Music Theatre society’s production of Carrie the Musical on Friday 13th May, marking the first show I have watched of theirs.
With it taking place in the Pyramid theatre, I knew I was in for an intimate, immersive and undoubtedly thrilling experience. I had never watched a ‘horror’ musical before and this concept intrigued me, having been an avid musical theatre fan all of my life. I can confidently say that this exceeded all my expectations.
Upon arrival, we were welcomed into a chilling and eerie space with the theatre being dimly lit and sinister music playing. I was instantly excited by the band that was positioned just behind the two set pieces that replicated run-down corrugated fences.
There was a thrilling sense of claustrophobia in the opening scene when members of the cast filtered out down the stairs surrounding us, singing directly to members of the audience. Tension rose as the cast sang and danced facing us, filling the small space of the floor in a way that opened it up and made it appear larger. The layered harmonies accompanied by belting vocals in this opening number were powerful and prepared the audience for the intense story that was about to unfold before us.
Freya Mactavish who played the protagonist of Carrie gave a highly commendable performance, starting right from her first number ‘Carrie’, where she expressed her intense frustration over people never understanding her for who she truly is. The victim of bullying at her school for not fitting in, Carrie used this song as an effective introduction to her inner thoughts and, once again, prepared us for her pending character development and a ferocious breakthrough of her newfound power.
The duets that I have to praise in this production are Carrie’s (Freya Mactavish) and her mother Margaret’s (Cara Staniforth) whose voices blended beautifully to reflect their bond, despite the toxic and problematic relationship they were enmeshed in. Cara Staniforth projected Margaret’s sinister character impressively, especially through her facial expressions and her vicious yet vulnerable solo of “When There’s No One”, which was the first time the audience was able to witness Carrie’s mother on her own and come to understand her better.
Ms Gardener was a somewhat nostalgic character beautifully portrayed by Milly Fern Parker, and her bond with Carrie was strengthened by the melodious blend of their voices which moved me and made the audience realise the value of supportive student-teacher relationships. This duo was personally my favourite part of the production, as it contrasted the underlining genre of horror, therefore making the show eclectic in its content.
Rowan Macpherson really wowed me with her performance of Chris – her stage presence was dominating and I must praise her stunning and controlled vocals that had the audience under her grip in a way that made her character’s ‘evil’ nature all the more apparent and literal. ‘The World According to Chris’ was one of my favourite numbers for this very reason, as most of the cast that played members of the class were present on the stage and they all gave a spectacular and energetic performance.
When watching the ensemble, the character of Stokes played by Ajay Sahota stood out to me as a comedic figure who used his acting space brilliantly. I particularly loved when he would pretend to be asleep in class or when he stumbled into prom in a drunken state, as these small character details added more life to each scene.
Act II was somewhat a shocking contrast to the first, especially for those who do not know the story of Carrie. The ending scene where (spoiler alert!) Carrie kills everyone at prom with her newly discovered powers, was directed incredibly by Lydia Duval and Andie Curno, with the effective manipulation of both sound and lighting to elevate the gripping atmosphere. After Chris pours the pig blood over Carrie’s head, following her being crowned prom queen, they direct a chilling insight into Carrie’s mind right before she ‘blows her lid’.
All members of the cast draw in close to her and scream sinister laughs as the lights flicker. The red lighting perpetuated the horror value as she threw her arms toward each class member, one by one, killing them with her supernatural powers. The aggression of this scene left the audience on the edge of their seats, a deathly silence hanging in the air of the Pyramid theatre where all the dead bodies lay sporadically in the space. When Margaret stabs Carrie in the scene to follow, a dramatic gasp spread across the audience with this twist intensifying the closing of this show even more.
I was left feeling oddly liberated and stunned by this production, with the mixture of emotions that Carrie inflicted giving me an overall unique musical theatre viewing experience. All in all, the efforts of the entire cast and production team cannot go unnoticed and I congratulate everyone for their remarkable execution of each role. This goes out to the band, directed superbly by Alex Boulton, who enveloped the harrowing content with spectacular music that consistently flowed throughout the musical’s runtime.
I will definitely be watching many more of the Music Theatre society’s productions in the future as this was a brilliant display of the members’ talents and efforts.
Words by: Ava Heeney
Edited by: Harsheni Maniarasan