Never underestimate the power of stagecraft. Case in point: "Carrie: The Musical," now receiving a mind-blowing immersive production at La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts.
Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford and Lawrence D. Cohen’s adaptation of the
And now it's here, and what a spectacular show it provides. Director Brady Schwind oversees a massive environmental staging, the space reconceived as gymnasium, complete with bleachers that move at key moments into new arrangements, taking us with them.
Set designer Stephen Gifford outdoes himself, including a breathtaking coup at the climactic prom reveal. Costumer Adriana Lambarri gets the full range of teenage garb; Cricket Myers' sound is typically exemplary; Brian Gale's lighting and projections are something else again; and so forth, with the prom night conflagration a high-flying marvel.
Moreover, Schwind has assembled an agile, avid ensemble, starting with the luminous Emily Lopez as its benighted heroine and a superb Misty Cotton as her psychotic parent. Although Lopez's resemblance to the young Vanessa Redgrave is inadvertently distracting, she gives a fiercely committed performance, and Cotton meets her beat for beautifully sung beat, particularly her Act 2 aria of abandonment.
There is strong supporting work, including Kayla Parker as nice girl Sue, Valerie Rose Curiel as bad girl Chris, Jon Robert Hall as school heartthrob Tommy and Jenelle Lynn Randall as gym teacher Miss Gardner. True, Garrett Marshall's creep Billy lacks the last measure of smarmy menace, but he's still part of an invested group effort, sailing through Lee Martino's inventive choreography, harmonizing under Brian P. Kennedy's musical direction.
However, "Carrie" is a better musical than before, but it's still not a great one. Gore's tunes are pleasant but, barring Carrie and Mom's songs, not very individuated, Pitchford's lyrics are prosaic, at times prolix, and Cohen's book doesn't explore its All Teens Are Alienated theme beyond surface considerations.
That will scarcely matter to audiences craving a full-throttle theatrical experience -- Cirque du Soleil meets Disneyland, with pig's blood -- and musical theater cultists should flock.