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Reportedly inspired by a 1981 performance of the opera LULU, Lawrence D. Cohen (who wrote the script for the 1976 film version of CARRIE) and Michael Gore (who won on Oscar for composing the title song for the movie FAME) teamed up to begin work on a musical based on the Stephen King novel. Dean Pitchford, (who was Gore’s collaborator on FAME and had numerous other chart-topping hits), was later brought in to work on the project.
The show was first produced by The Royal Shakespeare Company in February, 1988, in which Linzi Hateley made her stage debut as Carrie, and Barbara Cook played her mother Margaret.
The show then transferred to Broadway in April 1988, with Betty Buckley, who played the gym teacher Ms. Collins in the movie, taking over for Ms. Cook. The production was met with a raucous mix of cheers and boos; and despite the fact that the show was sold-out every night, the backers pulled their money out of the show. Thus CARRIE closed after just 16 previews and 5 performances, making it one of the most expensive flops in Broadway history.
In 2009, the original authors resurfaced in New York City with a book and score for a one-night only staged reading. A year later, the MCC Theater announced plans for a revival, which opened on March 1, 2012, and played to packed houses throughout its limited engagement. Molly Ransom starred as Carrie in this production, with Marin Mazzie as her mother.
The first-ever cast album of the show is now available from Ghostlight records.
In the past four seasons, Paul Melone has twice earned top directing honors at Boston’s Elliot Norton Awards- winning for his work on both Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (2013) and Adding Machine: A Musical (2010). His other area directing credits include: reasons to be pretty; The Little Dog Laughed; Fat Pig; The Moonlight Room; Our Lady of 121st Street; and The Shape of Thing (SpeakEasy Stage); The Apple Tree (The Boston Conservatory), Curse of the Starving Class (Apollinaire Theatre Company), and Things Beyond Our Control (Brandeis University). As both SpeakEasy’s Managing Director and Production Manager, Paul has also overseen and brought to the stage over 80 plays, musicals, concerts, cabarets, and special events. He is a proud graduate of Boston University’s Theatre Department.
What is CARRIE the musical about?
CARRIE the musical is so much more than just a horror story. It’s a human story about characters that are desperate to belong, to fit in. They are trying to figure out who they really are, and nowhere are those struggles more high-stakes than in high school. There’s a life-or-death importance to one’s sense of self in that world that gets amplified by milestones like the Prom. It’s also a classic “be careful what you wish for” story, as the characters have to face the consequences of getting what they want.
What attracted you to the project?
I’m fascinated by Carrie White, the title character. She’s a troubled person with real problems. She’s not a hero per se, but we root for her because we recognize and share in her challenges. She’s got this incredible power that gives her immense control, but she loses that control because she’s angry and emotionally ill equipped. The immaturity of youth is extraordinarily dangerous in this story, not just because of what Carrie can do, but because of the power that all these characters have to hurt one another.
I’m also very excited about the technical elements; the stage tricks, the mayhem that results when a character with supernatural powers really lets go on stage.
What are some of the challenges you face in bringing this show to the stage?
Well, there are the production challenges, the special effects. We’re not creating a haunted house with people that jump out and go “Boo!” It should be exciting and fun in a way that is thrilling to the audience, and draws them in, rather than distancing them. This is a universal story; everyone wants to fit in. And the whole production should make people feel like a part of that story.
Why will SpeakEasy audiences love it?
It’s a smart and fun take on a classic horror book with the kind of surprise, excitement, and immersive storytelling that could only take place in live theatre.