Stephen King took all of two weeks to write the 1974 thriller Carrie, which has since been turned into several films and a Broadway musical. That’s also how long the Singer’s Theatre had to put together the full-fledged musical for this weekend’s performances.The theatre company holds an intensive musical theatre workshop every summer for young people aged 14 to 24. They audition to be part of the production, receive their scripts in June, and then have 10 days of hard work in August to nail down singing, acting, and choreography.
Gord Davis, former EDSS drama teacher and director, said the musical doesn’t involve the horror and gore of its predecessors. Instead it focuses on the characters and how they got to where they are.
“We wanted to pick things that were challenging, rather than simple fun stuff summer camps do. We wanted to make this a more serious thing where they were developing their vocal skills and acting technique,” he said.
In the past they’ve done classics like Jekyll and Hyde and A Tale of Two Cities. Davis said this one is particularly challenging musically. They also selected it because the bullying in the play is so prominent today.
“I think a lot of people, when they think of Carrie, they think of the blood all over the place and the destruction,” Davis said. “Because you can’t do the high tech stuff they do in movies on the stage, what the playwrights have done is go to the heart of the story.”
The musical shows how Carrie gets to where she is because of all the bullying that happens, alongside her mother’s extremist religious influence. But unlike the movie, you see how much Carrie and her mother love each other, even singing some beautiful songs together where they express their concern for each other, Davis said.
The cast of 30 ranges from students studying musical theatre to those who have never set foot on stage before. Davis said it’s always been important to him for the entire cast to be as involved as possible, regardless if they’re a main character.
“I try to find ways to keep the kids on stage if possible,” Davis said. “It was my style when I was teaching in Elmira and now it’s become sort of a Singer’s Theatre style.”
Sue Snell, played by Sarah Hagarty, tells the story as a survivor. The idea is she’s being interviewed about what happened to Carrie. Snell is one of the few characters who tries to help Carrie, persuading her boyfriend Tommy Ross, played by Joel Cumber, to take her to prom.
“The story starts when Carrie (played by Caroline Wiechers) has her first period in the girls’ gym locker room and from that moment that’s when some of the girls, like Sue, start to feel guilty for what they’ve done to her,” Davis said. “And other girls like Chris want to get back at her.”
The summer workshop, in its twelfth year, has attracted its fair share of talent. Young actors from the U.S. have come to Kitchener to take part and this year two girls from Vancouver Island flew in.
Amanda Brunk, founder of Singer’s Theatre, said this year’s production is also supporting three charitable efforts.
“Our cast members will be wearing bracelets from the Pink Wrist Campaign of the anti-bullying website StopABully.ca on stage,” Brunk said. “We will be donating some of our prom dresses from the production to Prom Blitz, a charity that gives prom dresses to girls who need them. And finally, our cast is assisting in a blood drive for Canadian Blood Services to save lives.”
There will be three performances of Carrie at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts on August 15 at 7:30 p.m., and August 16 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $21 and can be purchased at www.ticketscene.ca or at the door.
Davis says there is quite a bit of cursing and sexual talk, so young children probably shouldn’t attend. But for the squeamish, rest assured there will be no pig blood.
“They found the humanness in the story, rather than the horror and the effects.”