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Critic's Choice

'Carrie: The Musical' returns with a fresh splash at downtown's Los Angeles Theatre

What a difference a second look makes. When “Carrie: The Musical” hit La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts in the spring, I found its immersive execution spectacular, its performances impressive and the material, well …

The production's return, billed as “The Killer Musical Experience” at the historic Los Angeles Theatre in downtown L.A., made me reconsider. Though hardly Rodgers and Hammerstein, composer Michael Gore, lyricist Dean Pitchford and librettist Lawrence D. Cohen have a take on Stephen King’s horror classic that seems more accomplished than before.

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The authors have continually reworked their property, a legendary failure on Broadway in 1988, and though the telekinetic heroine and her religiose mother have the most inspired writing, the surrounding numbers and modern-lingo libretto tweaks are largely serviceable and integrated. They sustain this tale of a high school outcast who can move things mentally, which leads to catastrophe at the senior prom.

Director Brady Schwind, choreographer Lee Martino, musical director Brian P. Kennedy and the heroic designers maintain their mind-boggling standard, further elevating the content.

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FOR THE RECORD:

"Carrie" review: In the Oct. 15 Calendar section, the caption for a photo accompanying a review of the musical "Carrie," transposed the identities of actresses Emily Lopez and Misty Cotton. Lopez (who plays Carrie) is at left, and Cotton (who plays Carrie's mother) is at right with arms raised. And an earlier version of this post misstated Brady Schwind's first name as Barry. —
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The fervent cast has grown into a fearless triple-threat unit, everyone displaying high-voltage singing, dancing and acting. It's centered by dulcet-voiced, wholly invested Emily Lopez as woebegone Carrie, and the astounding Misty Cotton, her feverish turn as demented Margaret a career benchmark.

Kayla Parker’s sympathetic Sue and Jon Robert Hall’s sensitive Tommy find deeper insights. Ditto Valerie Rose Curiel’s vindictive Chris and Garrett Marshall’s miscreant Billy. Jenelle Lynn Randall’s Miss Gardner rocks, vocally approaching Shirley Bassey, and so on down the roster.

The venue, the last of the grand movie palaces built on Broadway about a century ago,  somewhat alters scenic designer Stephen Gifford’s marvelous work. The prom reveal is more foreseeable, and post-disaster relics are relegated to downstairs. But Gifford -- like colleagues Brian Gale (lighting and projections), Cricket S. Myers (sound) and Adriana Lambarri (costumes) -- delivers the goods, and Jim Steinmeyer thrillingly ups the illusion ante, with even more gasp-inducing sliding and flying objects and conflagration effects.

One might question Mom's Act 1 garb, more Renaissance Faire than repressed fundamentalist, and the synoptic ending, which suggests that telekinesis is contagious.

Regardless, from first moving-bleacher gambit to climactic apocalypse, “Carrie” remains a wildly imaginative theatrical thrill ride -- as previously observed, Cirque du Soleil meets Disneyland with pig’s blood -- now with a fresh patina of Old Hollywood grandeur. See it with someone you love to scream with.

“Carrie: The Musical,” Los Angeles Theatre, 615 S. Broadway, Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays Oct. 24, Nov. 7, Nov. 21; 2 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Also 6:30 and 11 p.m. Oct. 17, Oct. 31, Nov. 14. Ends Nov. 22. $40 and up. (888) 596-1027 or www.experiencecarrie.com. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

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