There is a musical of Stephen King’s 1974 teen horror novel Carrie. You might not have heard about it because it bombed at its first outing in 1988, which was produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Statford-upon-Avon in England. Crazy, right?
It had precedent, inspired by the hit 1976 film directed by Brian DePalma and starring Sissy Spacek, as well as the Metropolitan Opera’s 1979 production of Alban Berg’s dark operaLulu.
Carrie: The Musical, unfortunately, did not follow the precedent to success.
But its creators wouldn’t let it die. They revised it, replacing songs that didn’t work, concentrating on the novel’s psychological foundation instead of the film’s spectacle, and staged it off Broadway in 2012. It worked. Partly because of its immersive production and, according to Arts Beat L.A., “Wonderful songs, each more likable than the last.”
So why is it right for Western Stage?
“The whole cast, except for three characters, are kids,” director Jon Selover says. “Being able to have [this] kind of opportunity for young people is central to what [Western Stage] is about.”
He was looking for plays that address issues he thinks the community should confront: in this case, bullying and religious extremism. The story is an ingeniously simple one about teen girls, the volatility of their identity, and primal need to belong. “[Carrie] thinks she’s different from everyone else. But she finds out she’s just like everyone else,” Selover says. “She wants to go to the prom.”
There, she finds out that, no, she’s not like everyone else.
CARRIE: THE MUSICAL runs 7:30pm Fri-Sat and 2pm Sun (post-show discussions follow matinees July 17 and 31), July 16-Aug. 6, at Western Stage’s Mainstage Theater, 411 Central Ave., Salinas. $24-$26/general; $12/children (parental discretion is advised). 755-6816, www.WesternStage.com