Theatre Review: Carrie – The Musical

This is a piece of raw emotional musical theatre rarely seen in amateur theatre.

Presented by: Hills Musical Company
Reviewed: 4 November, 2023

Many years ago, I was sitting in a cinema after having just experienced the film “Seven” feeling exhausted and emotionally spent. I have never really felt that feeling since, until last night after experiencing the Hills’ brilliant production of Carrie The Musical. Yes! You heard correctly – a musical based on Stephen King’s first novel! Don’t be put off – this is not just some rip-off of a horror classic, but an incredible theatrical experience. Particularly this production. Everything about it works – including the special effects.

For those who don’t know the story: Carrie White is a seventeen-year-old who has been over-protected by her religious zealot mother. Carrie doesn’t even know what a ‘period’ is and is terrified when she experiences her first one in the Girls showers at High School. Her other class mates tease and bully her constantly. But when she discovers that she has the power of Telekinesis, this leads to a powerful bloody climax. 

This is not a ‘happy’ musical by any stretch of the imagination, dealing as it does with the subjects of bullying and mental health issues, and requires an empathetic and deft touch to carry it off. Director Ben Stefanoff certainly has this, along with an immense knowledge of what works on a stage and how to make it succeed, and an incredible ability to pick strong casts. He makes sure that every little nuance of character is clearly defined in each and every cast member and it is evident that they all trust him – which is a huge part of any production working successfully. Ashleigh Rathjen has drilled everyone wonderfully in her fairly physical choreography and shows what a trouper she is by stepping into an Ensemble role the week the show opened (due to unforeseen circumstances). This show is Dylan Rufus’ debut as a Musical Director and hopefully he will keep at it. This is not an easy score to handle by any means and he clearly shows his skills with a clear, tight orchestra and clean, sharp vocals from the cast.

This cast of 16 is, quite honestly, what makes a reviewer’s life hard trying to find superlatives for each one. Everyone of them is fantastic! Each and every portrayal is spot on. I have seen the majority of this cast in other productions, but forgot that while watching them portray their characters so convincingly. Stunning work from all!

Each of the “teenagers” (Matt Barnett, Kirsty Burch, Tielah-Jade Cannon, Ella Heywood-Smith, Shane Huang, Gen Mohacsy, Ashleigh Rathjen and Sean Wright) shine individually and as a collective. Kristin Stefanoff and Michael Butler make teaching seem easy and a special mention to Stefanoff for her duet with Megan Davidson, Unsuspecting Hearts – truly beautiful.

Sarah Whalen as Chris and Brad Tucker as Billy are all too believable as the head ‘Mean Girl’ and the school’s not overly-bright tough guy respectively. Whalen in particular exudes a viciousness that is all too real and is totally believable. Her work with Tucker is great.

As the school’s “nice” couple, Sue and Tommy, Ruby Pinkerton and Simon Barnett both give nicely honed performances. Usually playing “bad” guys, Barnett shows his versatility as a performer by being the all-round, clean cut, boy-next-door type but naturally without stereotyping. Pinkerton has to show a range of different emotions throughout the show and handles them all expertly.

Natasha Scholey is stunning as Carrie’s overly mothering mother, Margaret. There is nothing overdone in her religious fanaticism – it is just right! In fact, Scholey makes us feel for her occasionally – as in her rendition of Act Two’s When There’s No One.

Megan Davidson is truly magnificent as Carrie. Hers is a harrowing, deeply moving portrayal that stays with one long after the show has finished. Her scenes with Barnett, particularly at the Prom, are magical and make the audience forget that something horrific is about to occur. This role is a true test of any young performer’s skills – and Davidson passes with “flying” colours.

Hats off to The Hills for mounting this extremely hard-hitting, emotional roller-coaster of a show. This reviewer admits he had tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat at the end of this brilliant production. This is a piece of raw emotional musical theatre rarely seen in amateur theatre.

Please note: this production touches on themes of bullying and mental health and is not suitable for young audiences.

Reviewed by Brian Godfrey

Photo credit: Daniel Salmond

Venue: Stirling Community Theatre
Season: Until November 18
Duration: 2 hours, including intermission
Tickets: Adult: $35 ; Concession: $30 ; Group Bookings (8+): $27

Disclaimer: Ben Stefanoff is the Arts Editor for Glam Adelaide. Kristin Stefanoff and Ashleigh Rathjen are members of the Glam Adelaide review team.

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