'Carrie' Bloodied by N.Y. Critics

Times Theater Critic

Hands across the sea are fine, but eyebrows went up when it was announced that a new Broadway musical, "Carrie," would rehearse and try out at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Stratford theater. Nor did the English critics find it much of a show.

"Carrie" opened Thursday on Broadway, again to unraves.

Based on Stephen King's horror story about a high-school wallflower who turns nasty, and staged by the RSC's Terry Hands, the show did impress Clive Barnes of the New York Post.

Barnes found it "strong, effective and remarkably coherent . . . terrific total theater . . . a schematic morality play, replete with the forces of evil, to say nothing of a cathartic finale of biblical proportions."

The other reviews went from lukewarm to stone cold. Frank Rich of the New York Times said that while the movie version of "Carrie" provided "scary, funny and sexy pulp entertainment," the stage version (book by Larry Cohen, songs by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford, dances by Debbie Allen) provided none of the above.

Howard Kissell of the Daily News was reminded of watching 2 1/2 hours of MTV videos, complete with "gratuitous vulgarity."

Michael Kuchwara of the Associated Press praised two performers: the veteran Betty Buckley as Carrie's mom (Barbara Cook left the role after Stratford) and newcomer Linzi Hateley as Carrie.

As for the show itself, Kuchwara found that it vacillated "between seriousness and schlock," with too much emphasis on the former.

"This show would need the lunacy of a Charles Ludlam to cut through King's hooey and psychobabble. What it gets from director Terry Hands is a sobriety that is often unintentionally funny. . . ."

Maybe American musicals should have American directors and try out in Boston.

Because the Pulitzer Prize for Drama is still restricted, in effect, to plays produced in New York, the American Theatre Critics Assn. gives an annual $1,000 award to a fine new play produced outside of New York.

This year's winner is Romulus Linney's "Heathen Valley," a study of an ingrown Appalachian community coping with its first church. Besides the cash award, the script will be excerpted in "The Burns Mantle Theatre Yearbook: The Best Plays of 1987-88," published annually by Dodd Mead.

Runners-up in the competition were John Olive's "Voice of the Prairie" and Matthew Witten's "The Deal." These also will be excerpted in "Best Plays."

IN QUOTES: Artistic director Jack O'Brien in the Old Globe Theatre Herald, on putting a new show into rehearsal: "The ring of belief that will eventually extend around our audiences is about to begin."

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