Drake University’s Department of Theater Arts production of “Carrie,” the musical, ran October 27-30, with a sold-out run at the Coleman Blackbox Theater.
“Carrie” ran on Broadway in 1988 for a total of three days and five performances. The show was considered a major financial failure and gained notoriety over the years as one of Broadway’s biggest flops. Highlights of the 1988 production include a pig-slaughtering dance number, costumes reminiscent of “Grease” and a giant stark white staircase descending from the sky (which nearly decapitated the actress playing Margaret White) .
The show was rewritten and relaunched off-Broadway in 2012. This overhaul led to the storyline we now see performed by Drake Theater.
It’s been stripped of most of the original 1980s encampments and is now a more simplistic coming-of-age story gone awry as Carrie White struggles with bullying, religious abuse from her mother and his new telekinetic abilities.
Laura Breyen, a sophomore in musical theater and psychology, plays Carrie White. Although Breyen is a strong vocalist, her playing is what sold audience members.
“Carrie is bullied harshly for much of the show, and especially early in the rehearsal process, it would be hard for me to get out of that dark place,” Breyen said.
It eventually became easier for Breyen to step back from that darkness and said the cast’s support and compassion made those difficult scenes easier.
A difficult scene was the destruction, the moment after Carrie was showered in pig’s blood while being crowned prom queen. Carrie then unleashes her telekinetic powers and, in a fit of rage, kills everyone at the ball. Breyen said it was his favorite part of the series and called it a unique experience.
“There are so many moving parts happening at once and it really showcases the skills of all the cast and the technical department,” Breyen said.
Junior Joe Barnard worked as a set designer. The “Carrie” set is an old church building with stained glass windows that depict the story of Carrie and Margaret White using famous religious paintings. Barnard appreciates that the production never makes it a point to show them.
“They just exist as a backdrop for the action and are there for the audience to experience,” Barnard said.
Religious imagery is heavily used in the setting of this show. Barnard says it helps explain the setting but also makes the audience unsettled. A room where Margaret sends Carrie to pray is littered with dozens of crosses.
“The exaggerated nature helps the audience see how extreme Margaret’s faith is and hint at her ultimate fate,” Barnard said.
Barnard hopes audiences come away with a deeper understanding of a few different things.
“First, how bad high school bullying can be and the harm it can do to a victim. Second, how religious extremism can affect people, and ultimately how it’s passed on as a trauma between generations,” Barnard said.
The phrase “What does it cost to be nice?” repeats throughout the show. That’s the message Laura Breyen hopes audiences will take away from this story.
Next to the Drake Stage is “Silent Sky,” which runs November 17-20 in the Performing Arts Hall.