2018-02-02 / Front Page

A night we’ll never forget

Theater uses ‘Carrie’ to appeal to audiences
By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – Lyric Music Theater director Joshua Chard knows staging “Carrie: The Musical,” is an interesting choice for the 66-year-old theater located on Sawyer Street, but nevertheless the title was on his list of shows he wanted to bring to the community theater stage.

“It is important to offer shows that will appeal to a wide range of audience members. It is a contemporary piece we hope will appeal to maybe a different audience base that our more classic shows do,” Chard said of the show, which runs Feb. 9 through Feb. 25. “Those classic shows are good to do too because it is important to present an balanced season.

The musical, which is based on “Carrie,” a 1974 Stephen King novel, tells the story of Carrie White, a misfit high school class of 2017 senior with telekinesis powers who is bullied at school for being different and stifled by her overly religious mother at home. Carrie’s powers wreak havoc on her community after classmates pull one prank too many on her at the high school prom.


Above, cast members of “Carrie: The Musical,” practice “A Night We’ll Never Forget,” Thursday, Jan. 25 at Lyric Music Theater. The show tells the tale of the trials and tribulations of Carrie White, an often-bullied high school student with telekinesis power and an overly controlling mother. Left, Laura Hurd Whited (Margaret White) embraces Shannon Oliver (Carrie White) after Carrie returns from prom during a rehearsal of “Carrie: The Musical,” which runs Feb. 9 to Feb. 25 at Lyric Music Theater. (Michael Kelley photo) Above, cast members of “Carrie: The Musical,” practice “A Night We’ll Never Forget,” Thursday, Jan. 25 at Lyric Music Theater. The show tells the tale of the trials and tribulations of Carrie White, an often-bullied high school student with telekinesis power and an overly controlling mother. Left, Laura Hurd Whited (Margaret White) embraces Shannon Oliver (Carrie White) after Carrie returns from prom during a rehearsal of “Carrie: The Musical,” which runs Feb. 9 to Feb. 25 at Lyric Music Theater. (Michael Kelley photo) The show, Chard said, has strong language and use of a strobe light, but lacks the nudity that other productions of the show have had.

“We chose not to go on the salacious route,” Chard said, likening the show’s mature themes to that of “Sweeney Todd: The Demented Barber of Fleet Street,” a show Lyric Music Theater did in 2016.

Chard said he and musical director Bob Gauthier chose “Carrie: The Musical” because they wanted to do the show with strong female characters.

“The characters in Carrie are not likeable, but they are really interesting to dig into and play,” Chard said.

This will be the fifth show Chard and Gauthier have teamed up for at Lyric Music Theater. All have been based on well-known literature.

“We started with “Oliver!” and gradually have gotten more contemporary for the shows we have been chosen to direct,” said Chard, who also worked with Gauthier on productions of “The Secret Garden,” and “Little Women.”

“Carrie: The Musical” first premiered on Broadway on May 12, 1988, but had one of the shortest runs in Broadway history. The show closed May 15 – running just five performances – after financiers pulled the funding from the show after poor initial reviews.


Director Joshua Chard speaks to the cast of “Carrie: The Musical at a rehearsal last week. Chard and his music director Bob Gauthier chose the musical, based on a Stephen King novel, because it had strong female characters and differed from the type of show typically put on at Lyric Music Theater. (Michael Kelley photo) Director Joshua Chard speaks to the cast of “Carrie: The Musical at a rehearsal last week. Chard and his music director Bob Gauthier chose the musical, based on a Stephen King novel, because it had strong female characters and differed from the type of show typically put on at Lyric Music Theater. (Michael Kelley photo) “It was loudly booed every night by the audience and at the time was the most expensive Broadway show,” Chard said.

The show creators, he said, didn’t allow anyone else to touch the show and “had to be convinced” to allow it to be reworked.

Nearly 25 years later the musical got a second lease on life when the reworked show by Lawrence Cohen (the screenwriter for the 1976 film), teamed up with Academy Award winners Michael Gore (music) and Dean Pitchford (lyrics) premiered off-Broadway in New York City in 2012. Traveling shows then followed in Seattle, Washington and Sydney, Australia in 2013 and London and Los Angeles in 2015.

Chard said in the years between the Broadway show and the off-Broadway show, the show was not made available for other theaters to do.

The Maine premiere of “Carrie: The Musical” was in October 2013 when the University of Southern Maine staged a concert-version of the show. Most recently it was produced at Some Theater Company in Bangor in November 2017.

Chard said the cast has worked hard to make “Carrie: The Musical,” something the audience can relate to.

“As a cast and company, we’ve really tried to work on showing the humanity in the characters, the pain they are dealing with and why they act the way they do,” Chard said.

Talk back sessions with the cast will be held after the performances on Sunday, Feb. 11 and Feb. 18 for the audience to talk about what they saw and how it impacted them. Chard said there is “power in talking to who portrayed these characters on stage.”

“People should come prepared for a show that hits them in ways they really didn’t expect,” said Shannon Oliver, a Bridgeton resident who plays the role of Carrie.

Oliver said taking part in the show has opened her eyes about bullying.

Oliver, who has appeared in five Lyric Music Theater productions, including most recently as Jo March in “Little Women,” was fortunately not bullied as a child but participating in the show made her feel for those who are.

“It has made me feel how horrible people can be to each other,” she said. “Can you blame (Carrie) for getting to that boiling point at the end?”

Mike Jenkins, of Portland, said the play has also offered insight into his character Tommy Ross, a star athlete and most popular boy in the high school.

“It is easy to look at Tommy as your stereotypical popular jock, but stepping into it and reading the material over and over, it humanizes him in a way I didn’t think was possible,” he said.

Laura Hurd Whited, of North Yarmouth, is returning to the Lyric Music Theater stage for the first time in 20 years to take on the role of Margaret, Carrie’s controlling, abusive and overly religious mother.

“This is an amazing role. I didn’t realize it until I really got into it,” she said.

Although “Carrie,” is a well-known Stephen King novel, both Oliver and Jenkins were attracted to “Carrie: The Musical,” for its music.

“The music is absolutely stunning, but also heartwrenching, and also fun,” Oliver said, adding listening to it for the first time gave her goose bumps.

Jenkins, a graduate of Lisbon High School, where Stephen King graduated, first heard the music of “Carrie: The Musical” when he was 16-years-old and it was playing off-Broadway. He was immediately hooked.

“I feel in love with it. It was incredible for me to have all the angsty music as a 16-year-old,” said Jenkins, who has appeared in two shows at Lyric Music Theater, one at Portland Players and is a regular cast member with Cast Aside Productions, a professional theater company in Portland.

Hurd Whited, a regular participant in the annual Best of Broadway fundraiser for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland, is excited to perform in the show.

“I didn’t imagine anyone of these theaters (around here) would do this show, just based on what’s expected,” she said.

“The theater is really exited (about the show). This is the second season we’ve done a show with more edge,” Chard said. “Last year we did “Spring Awakening.” Our theater wants to take some risks and try things not done on our stage before.”

Opening night, Chard said, will have a prom theme, complete with a photo booth and a wine/appetizer and dessert reception after the show.

Once “Carrie: The Musical” wraps up, staff and performers at Lyric Music Theater will turn their focus to a staging of “42nd Street,” a 1981 Best Musical and Best Choreography Tony Award winner that tells the story of Peggy, an aspiring chorus girl who arrives in New York City from Allentown, Pennsylvania with the dream of becoming a star. Lyric Music Theater’s performance of the musical, which ran for 3,486 performances on Broadway from August 1980 to January 1989, opens Friday, April 13 and closes Sunday, April 29.

Lyric Music Theater’s 2018-2019 season reveal will take place Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Elsmere BBQ & Wood Grill at 448 Cottage Road in South Portland.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282- 4337, ext. 237.

See the show

Lyric Music Theater’s performance of Carrie: The Musical can be seen

Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and

Sundays at 2:30 p.m. from Feb. 9 to Feb. 25. The performances on

Saturday, Feb. 10 will be American

Sign Language interpreted. Tickets can be purchased by calling 799-

1421, emailing ticketslyric@gmail.com, visiting lyricmusictheater.org or visiting the box office at 176 Sawyer

Street during performance weeks:

Thursday to Saturday 6 to 7:30 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 3 p.m.

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