Oct 10, 2013

[Theater] Carrie (Atlantis Productions)

I haven't been all that excited about Atlantis Productions' 2013 line-up of shows for one reason or another. I guess the show selection just didn't pique my interest, even with the expansion of their offerings with their recent partnership with Viva Entertainment - or whatever that deal is.

But I definitely wanted to go see Carrie, especially given Menchu Luachengco-Yulo was announced to be part of the cast. Everyone else was pretty much just window dressing for me at this point. She was amazing in Next to Normal and we're sort of committed to watching all of her plays since then. And seriously, she's totally worth every show.

Thankfully we managed to catch the last show in this particular run. Apparently the production had gone through some internal troubles of its own behind-the-scenes, but in the end managed to pull through somehow. It may seem somehow cliche, but darn, good job indeed. They really managed to save things despite the challenges they faced.

Synopsis: Carrie is the stage musical adaptation (with a book by Lawrence D. Cohen) of the Stephen King novel of the same name. Lyrics were by Dean Pitchford with music by Michael Gore as far as the 2012 revival is concerned. The Atlantis Production run of Carrie ran from September 20 - October 6, 2013 at the RCBC Plaza.

The show starts in the relative present with Sue Snell (Yanah Laurel) recounting the events leading up to the night of May 28 to unseen interviewers. This brings us back to her high school where social outcast Carrie White (K-La Rivera / Mikkie Bradshaw) experiences her first period. But given her ignorance, she panics and assumes that she is bleeding to death, much to the amusements of her peers. The insults are especially spurred on by Sue's best friend, Chris (Jill Pena) until the point that Carrie lashes out verbally just as a light bulb blows out.

Carrie arrives home to find her mother (Menchu Luachengco-Yulo) singing along with an evangelical radio program. We thus discover the reason for Carrie's ignorance about basic bodily functions - her mother is extremely religious and constantly condemns her for her innate wickedness as a woman. Her song "And Eve Was Weak" gives us a glimpse of her own history and how she became a single mother. She locks her in a "prayer closet" and there we discover there's more to Carrie than just her social awkwardness.

Now it's interesting to note that the final matinee of the show had the role of Carrie portrayed by K-La Rivera instead of the original lead, Mikkie Bradshaw. K-La is not entirely new to Atlantis - she had previously appeared in their production of In the Heights. But she joined the show in the middle of its run given the original lead had taken ill. With just 6 days to learnt he role, it's pretty amazing that K-La managed to bring Carrie to life in so short a period of time. And I have to admit, the girl has a pretty powerful set of pipes. I swear, you can't tell that she was a mid-production alternate at all.

It was a pretty interesting cast, but Menchu definitely steals the show even though she doesn't have the most stage time. Beyond the role, her on-stage presence is just amazingly powerful that it's hard to ignore her. You feel the strength of her every spoken word and her ability to tie emotions to her singing is guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings. She's a complex character in her own right and one can't entirely fault her desire to be fiercely protective of her daughter given her own history.

The actors did a great job, but admittedly some songs were not quite to my liking. The song dedicated to Carrie herself was oddly whimsical and didn't quite fit in with the rest of the production. And a few of the other song had similar issues of being almost trite or something along those lines. I can totally understand why the original musical flopped and others felt the need to extensively re-write it in order to salvage things. Considering this is already the salvaged work, they really had their work cut out for them with the original material. This added a bit of a strain to things, and certainly not in a good way.

The stage design that Atlantis implemented for the show was pretty creative, especially given the need to demonstrate Carrie's powers later on in the show. There were a number of levitation tricks that needed to be pulled off flawlessly and admittedly the illusion was pretty great. There were no obvious lines and such that made the tricks worked and thus the whole thing was pretty enjoyable. Plus there were some interesting lighting effects that they had managed to achieve together with creative visual overlays thanks to well-planned projection slides. I do wish the backgrounds had better textures as well, but on the whole it was still pretty great and added a lot of fun to the show.

On the whole, Carrie is nicely dark without getting overly scary. It has always been a bit of a morality story against bullying, which is never a bad thing. Thus this staging still gets 4 cool telekinetic tricks out of a possible 5.

P.S. There was a silly gratuitous shirtless scene for love interest Markkie Stroem.

P.P.S. Yay that Manman Angsico finally has a new headshot.

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