I was never one to watch scary movies growing up. Why be terrified on purpose? But I do remember seeing Carrie, the 1970s blood bath, which not only scared me of angstful telekineticist teens but also—let’s be real—high school in general.
Then I went to high school and college and forgot all about the story. Until I was invited to the Studio Theatre’s “Friends With Benefits” summer fling last night. A cocktail party, musical, and after party is my cup of tea. What I didn’t realize is that I would relive the Carrie terror—in song and dance form.
No kidding. This is actually “Carrie: The Musical,” complete with a live rock opera band, belting singers, choreographed dancing and, yes, plenty of pig’s blood and murder. But despite the skeptical responses I got from my friends when I invited them to join me, the show was actually pretty decent.
It’s playing in Studio Theatre’s Stage 4, which has stadium-style seating but only four or five rows of chairs. This means the performers are right in your face, no matter where you’re sitting, and that high school angst radiates into the audience.
The lyrics and contemporary rock music are pretty catchy, too. I found myself singing some of the songs during intermission. I realized later this is because the musical was written by Broadway gods Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford. Dean has been nominated for four Academy Awards, seven Grammys and two Tonys. This is the real deal, and he translates Carrie White’s story into catchy lyrical poetry.
The obvious star of the show was Carrie’s mother, played by Barbara Walsh, a seasoned actress whose voice and passion filled the room. She commanded a presence, and expertly acted what is a very difficult role—the tortured mother, religious fervent, and (spoiler alert) eventual murderer.
Yet the actor who stole the show was Maria Rizzo, who played Sue. Her voice had versatility, and she was not shy about showing her vocal range. Moreover, her acting was by far the most believable, exhibiting the right amount of emotional response to this dramatic story. Not to mention the girl has incredible eyebrows.
There were moments in the show, however, that seemed to drag on. What should have been a four-minute song was stretched to six, and at times it felt like the producers had made a conscious effort to extend the length of the story by adding long songs and interludes.
But overall, it was one of the best performances I’ve seen at Studio Theatre. Make sure to check it out, then head to Commissary on P Street for after-show “Carrie” inspired cocktails and appetizers.
Carrie: The Musical
Playing until August 3
1501 14th St. N.W.