A 1970s film based on a Steven King novel that has been described as “chilling” and “a horror,” might not sound like the makings of a springtime musical — but the theater department at La Jolla High School plans to pull it off. The curtain will rise on “Carrie: The Musical,” 7 p.m. Feb. 22-23 and March 1-2 at Parker Auditorium, 750 Nautilus St.
Every other year, the department alternates between an edgier musical and a more conventional one. And this PG-rated, precautionary tale of bullying and the impact one can have on someone else’s life brings the music in a big way.
“The newer musicals (we are seeing) aren’t off to see the wizard, they deal with important issues that kids deal with,” said Stacey Allen, the director and theater teacher. “This show speaks to where kids are in their lives, and it’s our responsibility as storytellers to showcase what kids are dealing with right now. These kids don’t live in the ‘Damn Yankees’ world. I look forward to doing those (musicals) in the future, but they want to hold up a mirror to society, and we can do that through music.”
Unlike the 1976 film (in which Sissy Spacek was 27 years old playing a high school student), the staged production uses high school-aged students playing high school students.
“These guys bring just who they are because this show is about students and bullying; there is an authenticity they bring because this is their life,” Allen said. “They bring a genuine honesty to it because it is their story. Hopefully, there aren’t too many telekinetic kids out there (laughs).”
Bella Kandel, who plays Margaret White (Carrie’s mother), affirmed: “The teenagers being shown in this is how we feel as teenagers … and the message in the end is really empowering.”
The musical adaptation was introduced in the 1980s, and made its Broadway debut in 1988. While it didn’t do well on the Great White Way, it was relevant enough to catch the attention of the student actors — in its music, its execution and its message.
“I’m a big show-tunes nerd and I love that you can lose yourself in song,” said senior Blue Schroeder, who plays the title role. “I would hope (‘Carrie’ and other modern musicals) are like the next generation of show-tunes. People get in their heads that all theater songs are silly, but when you get into shows like ‘Rent,’ ‘Chicago,’ and now ‘Carrie,’ you hear these powerful ballads and ensemble numbers. These are real songs and have real emotion in them. I hope people start seeing that.”
Senior Madi Hoffman, who plays Chris, added: “It’s a tragic story that has a lot of other aspects to it, some of them really fun. There is a speech about bullying and a lot of teen-life things. It’s a cool show because there are so many songs and stories going on independently that ultimately come together.”
To bring the story to the stage, a lot of “creative changes” had to be made, explained Sean Brew, who plays Tommy. “In our production, the famous scene at the end (yes, that one) is really fast and breaks into song and Carrie needs to show a lot of outward emotion; whereas in the movie, it’s a famous shot because it is completely silent and pans from her to the auditorium.”
Add in some California-legal pyrotechnics, smoke towers in the audience area, faux levitation and more, and you have the La Jolla High’s spin on the production.
With an overarching theme of the effects of bullying, several students said they learned a lesson themselves. “It’s a lot easier to be nice to someone than to go out of your way to be mean to someone,” said Brew.
Schroeder added: “The major theme is the effect of bullying and the effects of our actions on people. You never know what someone is going through or how your words are combining with everything else they’ve been through. For Carrie, her mother’s words combine with her peers’ treatment and her own feelings, and you don’t know how they all mix together.”
Jonathan Atarius, who plays Billy (portrayed on screen by John Travolta), concluded: “We hope the audience leaves thinking about bullying, and there is the overall theme of not judging a book by its cover in Carrie, and I hope people take that home with them and just be entertained.”
IF YOU GO: See “Carrie: The Musical,” 7 p.m. Feb. 22-23 and March 1-2, including a pay-what-you-can performance 2:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at Parker Auditorium, 750 Nautilus St. ljhstheatre.com or email@example.com