It takes a brave theatre company to tackle a show based on a 1974 Stephen King novel, notoriously dubbed the “most legendary flop musical ever produced”, well Glasgow-based Mad Props Theatre are just that, staging Michael Gore, Lawrence D Cohen and Dean Pitchford’s Carrie.
Debuting in 1988, (unbelievably) at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford, it was met with decidedly mixed reviews, but that was nothing compared to its Broadway run, plagued with script and technical problems and the near-decapitation of musical theatre legend Barbara Cook, it closed after five performances, the most expensive theatre flop of its time. Thankfully, time has been kind, and after a successful 2015 revival at the Southwark Playhouse, Mad Props present the Scottish premiere.
Told in a series of flashbacks by her only ally Sue, Carrie is a telekinetic teen with an oppressive religious fanatic of a mother, humiliated by her classmates at prom, she wreaks her revenge on those who’ve wronged her.
The problems that have always existed with the production – weak script, forgettable music are still here, but thankfully judicial trimming, tight direction and some fine performances elevate this production above its source material.
Stand out among the talented cast is Katy Allan as Carrie’s controlling and abusive mother, hers is a finely measured performance, that, despite the titters from some of the audience, treads the fine line between hysterical exaggeration and frightening believability. Louise Creechan’s acting skills are also worthy of note, she delivers the requisite intensity and naive vulnerability of the put-upon teen perfectly (as well as bearing a startling resemblance to movie Carrie, Sissy Spacek). There is also a brace of fine performances from the ensemble, the only gripe being a lack of dancing skills that rendered this very professional looking production a bit shambolic at times.
The small stage at Websters fits the production like a glove and the special effects are impressive from an amateur company.
Hugely entertaining and impressively delivered, mad props must go to Mad Props for continuing to deliver something different to musical theatre audiences in Glasgow – long may it continue.