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Theatre / Carrie

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... and as the lights dim to black, boos ring out from the upper balcony while below, others begin an ovation. ... Carrie has become an instant legend.
As the audience files out, some appear thrilled, others appalled; the word most frequently bandied about is "unbelievable". ... The ad copy, which read "There's Never Been a Musical Like Her," has proved oddly prophetic.

The musical adaptation of Stephen King's 1974 novel Carrie and Brian DePalma's subsequent 1976 film adaptation, about a friendless, bullied teenage girl named Carrie, who learns that she has telekinetic powers and uses them to take revenge on her classmates after a cruel prank.

It premiered with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1988. After a Troubled Production, including the near-death of the lead actress, it opened in the Virginia Theater on Broadway. Reviews were overwhelmingly negative and the production closed after just sixteen previews and five regular performances. The name has been considered so synonymous with spectacular failure that theatre critic Ken Mandelbaum named his 1991 book about musical flops, Not Since Carrie, after it.

However, in The New '10s, the production became somewhat Vindicated by History. Revised by the original librettist, lyricist, and composer, a new production opened Off-Broadway in 2012 and earned positive reviews during an Off West End revival in 2015. It also received a Colbert Bump by being adapted as one of Riverdale's musicals, in the second season.

Tropes associated with the musical:

  • Eleven Oclock Number: “When There’s No One,” Margaret’s heart wrenching ballad about her love for Carrie and how it contradicts her fanatical beliefs.
    • Originally there was a different Eleven O’Clock Number called “Once I Loved a Boy,” where Margaret reflected on her rape and the unrequited love she still harbored for Carrie’s father, but it was cut and replaced with “When There’s No One” after Barbara Cook complained Margaret White had virtually no redeeming qualities or humanizing moments at any point in the show.
  • Adaptation Amalgamation: The musical uses the parts of both the 1976 film and the novel as it wishes. For instance, Margaret dies the same way as her book counterpart (via a stopped heart), it returns the frame story of Sue's interrogation from the book, and Carrie dying in Sue's arms but takes Sue going to see Tommy and Carrie at the prom from the film and surviving because Miss Gardner threw her out, and the massacre being limited to the school gym rather than destroying the entire town.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: The original 1988 production suffered greatly from this because director Terry Hands kept cutting entire dialogue scenes throughout the show's initial tryout in Stratford-Upon-Avon and made further edits during Broadway previews in order to turn Carrie into a sung-through musical, which were in vogue at the time. This resulted in huge gaps in the show's narrative, completely obscuring the characters' motivations and Carrie's powers. Instead, musical numbers just piled on top of each other with little connection or reason. A common criticism was that the audience had no idea what was happening on stage unless they read the original novel or seen the 1976 film. Most of the cut content was eventually put back into the libretto when the show was revived in 2012.
  • Adaptation Name Change: "Miss Desjardin" in the book becomes "Miss Gardner"note  in the musical.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: Unlike other adaptations, the stage production implies that Margaret and Carrie’s father were never married and that he was actually a prom date who raped her in the back of his car.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In the revival, Margaret is far less abusive and cruel than in the original story. It's clear she really does love Carrie and even apologizes for locking Carrie in the closet at one point. When Carrie complains about her pimples, Margaret tells her a nice Bible verse about how inner beauty is the important thing, as opposed to some nonsense about how "pimples are the Lord's way of chastising you". When she forbids Carrie to go to the prom, it seems to be more out of a (not unreasonable) fear that Carrie will get her heart broken than because she thinks proms are evil, as Carrie was conceived after Margaret's prom date raped her. While she still kills Carrie at the end, her song makes it clear she does so with a heavy heart and is convinced that she had no other choice.
  • Adaptation Personality Change: Margaret. While she's still an insane, abusive fundamentalist, she's shown to genuinely love and want what's best for Carrie, and is even self aware of the pain she causes her daughter. Not only that, she feels guilty! While she's definitely a villain, she comes off more as a Well-Intentioned Extremist, maybe even an emotionally complex Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Although it may be an Imagine Spot, the Stratford production has Carrie's classmates dancing around her, mocking and even physically pushing her around after Chris and Billy run up to her and pour the pig's blood over her, as opposed to "just" laughing.
  • Arc Words:
    • "And Eve was weak."
    • “God has seen your sinning just beginning."
  • Auto Erotica: The main crux of “I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance;” Margaret believes Carrie’s prom date will seduce her in the back of his car.
  • Brain Bleach: In "Epilogue", the destruction that Sue has seen by the end of the musical:
  • Casting Gag: In the 1988 Broadway run, Margaret was played by Betty Buckley, who'd played Miss Collins (Carrie’s gym teacher) in the 1976 film.
  • Dramatic Irony: "A Night We'll Never Forget", sung as the students are preparing for prom, is full of it, from the title down.
    I'll be out of this dump by the first week in May
    I will never look back once I finally say goodbye.
    If she asks me to dance, I swear I'll die!
  • Doomed by Canon: The prom attendees, which accounts for the ironic "A Night We'll Never Forget".
  • Do You Think I Can't Feel: In contrast to the film and book, where Tommy and Miss Gardner/Desjardin ask the girls this about Carrie after their first prank, Carrie sings this about this during the 80s version of "The Destruction".
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: Sue is the only character to survive in this version.
  • Heaven Seeker: Played with and subverted. Margaret is introduced singing a gentle gospel called “Open Your Heart,” but then quickly shows her true colors with the following song, “And Eve Was Weak.”
  • The Horse Shoe Effect: Highlighted during “Do Me a Favor.” Good girl Sue and bad girl Chris both use their sexuality to coerce their respective boyfriends into doing their bidding.
  • It's All About Me: During “When There’s No One”, Margaret sings only about how she would be affected by her daughter’s death.
  • Lighter and Softer: To both the novel and film, although it's still not light by any stretch of the imagination. In addition to keeping the novel's toned down version of Margaret's death (Carrie stops her heart rather than impaling her with knives), the musical also follows the film in keeping Carrie's massacre limited to the school gym.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Sue Snell feels guilty for humiliating Carrie, alongside the other girls, and apologizes. However, in this version, Carrie rejects the apology, feeling it's not genuine (and in a way, it isn't, as Sue's just trying to relieve her conscience). This forces Sue to realize how horrible she's been to Carrie over the years, and how much pain Carrie's been through as a result, prompting this reaction from Sue, who then becomes The Atoner. Best expressed in "Once You See".
    She... she's always been there. I... I never knew.
    I felt as though this girl revealed herself to me.
    And now I know, that once you see
    you can't unsee.
    • The original production has "It Hurts to Be Strong", sung by Sue after being shunned by the other girls for sending Tommy to the prom with Carrie.
  • Popularity Cycle: This is the thesis of "The World According to Chris", which theorizes that someone is "on top", someone is below and you have to maintain it.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Margaret’s assumption that something horrible will happen to Carrie at the prom turns out to be true, but it’s wasn’t Tommy Ross who was out to hurt her daughter, it was Chris.
  • Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: Of the 1976 film of the same name.
  • The Social Darwinist: Chris is this based on "The World According to Chris". She thinks the whole idea of being a kind person as laughable, and thinks Carrie deserves to be treated badly just for being lower on the pecking order.
  • Song of Prayer: A lot of the songs have Carrie and/or Margaret praying. From the 80s, Carrie has "Dear Lord" (a prayer for strength). Both versions have "Open Your Heart", which begins with Margaret praying then incorporates both Carrie and Margaret's prayers, and "And Eve Was Weak", in which Margaret's last verse is a prayer about Carrie's powers, and "Evening Prayers", which has both Carrie and Margaret's prayers to God (as well as dialogue between them).
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "When There's No One", sung by Margaret, has a beautiful and soothing melody, but the lyrics are about a mother contemplating the murder of her own daughter.
  • Villain Song:
    • Alpha Bitch Chris gets the solo "The World According to Chris" in the revival, wherein she sings about her "whip or get whipped" view of the world.
    • Chris and Billy sing "Do Me a Favor" with Sue and Tommy, their share being Chris talking him into helping her. They also have a brief part in "A Night We'll Never Forget", in which they plot to get even with Carrie at the dance.
    • Margaret has "And Eve Was Weak", where she warns her daughter about the "curse of blood" when she gets her period (this song also serves as a Mood Whiplash from Margaret's sweet, motherly demeanor, and is meant to show just how Ax-Crazy she can get when snapped). "When There's No One", another solo, could also qualify, given the fact that it's the moment she realizes that she must kill Carrie in order to save her from damnation.
    • The 1988 production had a much more straightforward example with "Out for Blood", which opened Act 2 with Chris talking about her vengeful personality and the plan to humiliate Carrie at the prom.
  • Villainous Lament: Margaret's verses in "I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance". While initially coming off as ruining Carrie's attempts to fit in, it becomes evident that her worry is real, as Margaret had been to her own prom with a date, who raped her in the back of his car.