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'Carrie: The Musical': USM Stages New Version of Stephen King Classic
10/31/2013   Reported By: Tom Porter

Stephen King's horror classic, "Carrie," was first made into a film in 1976 - and again just this year, with a remake being released just a few weeks ago. The chilling tale also found its way onto Broadway in the 1980s. And now a new musical based on the story will take to the stage at the University of Southern Maine's Gorham campus this weekend. Tom Porter stopped by rehearsals this week for a preview.

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USM Stages 'Carrie: The Musical' Listen

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USM students rehearse their production of "Carrie:  The Musical," which is opening Friday night in Gorham.

For these student performers, this weekend is a landmark event: a chance to bring one of most famous contemporary horror stories back to its home setting: small town Maine.

"It's just really cool to be able to do this in the state where Carrie takes place - it makes it feel even more authentic," says sophomore Cameron Wright, from Ellsworth, who is playing high school bully Billy Nolan. "My character's really just kind of a huge jerk," he says.

Billy, and his girlfriend Chris, antagonize and humiliate the main character, Carrie White, the misfit teen who turns out to have special, deadly powers. "I'd say we kind of spur each other on - we feed off each other's evil energy," Wright says.

Tom Porter: "Like an evil couple?"

"Yes exactly - Chris is kind of like the queen bee of the high school or so she thinks she is," says Emily Davis, of Westbrook, who plays Chris. "She's pretty awful, but it's been really fun playing a bully - never done that before."

"We have the right combination of talent here in the musical theater program to be showcased, in my opinion, in a really nice way with this show," says Ed Reichert, a lecturer in musical theater and director of the show, which Reichert says has the support of Stephen King himself.

The first musical version of Carrie came out on Broadway 25 years ago, and featured some expensive special effects. These couldn't rescue the show, however, which went down as one of the biggest flops in recent Broadway history.

Reichert says the rights to a newer, less extravagant, version of the show became available about nine months ago. This incarnataion of Carrie includes some new songs, and relies more on the characters than it does on special effects - although he does have a couple of tricks up his sleeve for the gruesome climax of the story.

Carrie 1"We're keeping it very simple," Reichert says. "We have some new lights that we've introduced today into our rehearsals which are going to add some exciting effects, and we have wonderful fake blood."

"My name is Eileen Hanley, and I'm from Peaks Island, Maine, and I'm playing the title role of Carrie at USM. It's been a huge challenge for me, vocally and also acting-wise. I've never done, like, a huge, scary, dramatic role, and it's been so much fun with everyone involved. And, yeah, I'm having a great time. I'm really excited."

Tom Porter: "I suppose she's quite an interesting character - Carrie - because you sympathize with her, but at the same time she's the scariest one in it."

Eileen Hanley: "Yeah, I've talked to people who really, truly believe that Carrie is evil, and I just don't think that at all. I really sympathize with her. I think that she is really misunderstood, and it's been really hard to develop that character making her empathetic and also kind of hating her at the end."

Senior Danie Lane from Caribou plays the role of Carrie's overbearing mother, Margaret, a religious fanatic who loves her daughter, but has a strange way showing it.

"Her mother's very extreme," Lane says. "She has so much love for Kerry, but at the, like, flip of a switch, she is going on a rampage, or she's harming Carrie and not even realizing what she's doing until afterwards when it's too late."

As well as being a spooky tale, Director Ed Reichert says the story of Carrie also draws attention to the whole issue of bullying. He hopes some lessons can be learned from the show.

"Gosh, if you go to the news and to the newspapers, it seems like everyday we're hearing another story of bullying," Reichert says. "That could be something that people get out of it - you know feeling some compassion and understanding for the underdog, so to speak, being kinder and being nicer to people, 'cause you never know."

"Carrie: The Musical" is being performed four times this weekend at USM's Gorham campus, starting Friday night.

Photos:  Tom Porter


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