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‘Carrie: The Musical’ disturbs and delights audiences

Published on December 06, 2023

‘Carrie: The Musical’ disturbs and delights audiences

Theatregoers packed a makeshift high school gymnasium at Eastern Connecticut State University to see a musical take on a classic horror. Based on Stephen King’s 1974 novel, “Carrie: The Musical” followed Carrie White, a timid social pariah turned vengeful prom queen. 

Directed by student Liv Skerry and starring Emily Conte ’27 as Carrie, the production featured music by Michael Gore and lyrics by Dean Pitchford. The cast and crew performed to sold-out crowds in the DelMonte Bernstein Studio Theater from Nov 30 – Dec 3, providing audiences with, as one of the songs promised, “a night they’ll never forget.” 

The cast and crew took full advantage of the studio theatre’s modular design, with bleacher-style seating flowing onto the stage, which was repurposed as a high school gymnasium surrounded by lockers and a basketball hoop. Throughout the show, select seats were kept empty for characters to use, while 1980s-inspired costumes further transported audiences to Carrie's doomed prom night.

In her director's notes, Skerry explained the show’s depiction of bullying and hardship is something that should be acknowledged, and that the musical is meant to provoke solemn thought in the audience as they contemplate the consequences of a joke gone too far. 

In King’s best-selling novel, Carrie’s lonely world turns upside down one fateful day at school after gym class, when she gets her first period in the shower and panics, unaware of what is happening to her. Her classmates, led by usual tormentor Chris Hargensen (Sierra Boccuzzi ‘25) mock her cries for help until gym teacher Miss Gardner (Joy Ikechukwu ‘24) intervenes. She and Carrie’s teacher, Mr. Stevens (Tyler Warren ’26), send Carrie home for the day. 

Carrie’s browbeating continues at home with her fanatically religious mother, Margaret (Allison Thebeau ‘27), who locks her in the basement in fear of her supposed growing sin. But with Carrie’s budding womanhood comes an unusual symptom: telekinesis. 

Meanwhile, Chris’s best friend Sue Snell (Natalie Borque ‘27) feels remorseful for her treatment of Carrie and asks her good-natured boyfriend Tommy Ross (Kyle Tinker-Palaia ‘24) to escort Carrie to prom. Chris, who has lost her prom privileges as consequence for antagonizing Carrie, conspires with her obtuse boyfriend, Billy (Kane Waggoner ‘25), to rig the ballots for prom queen and dump pig’s blood on Carrie as she accepts the crown. 

Both plans are successful, but with dire consequences: Carrie, furious and covered in blood, uses her telekinetic powers to systematically massacre all the promgoers at the climax of the show. Sue Snell later discovers both Carrie and her mother dead at the hands of each other, making her the sole survivor. 

Acknowledging the gruesome subject matter of the story, Skerry said the point of the show is to “push you as a viewer to a point of deep thought about what you’re watching ... What can you do to make change? What can you say to make a difference? What does it cost to be kind?” 

Written by Elisabeth Craig