Montclair State University’s Peak Performances’ first show of the year, “Carrie the Musical” will open on Oct. 20 and run through Oct. 28. Based on Stephen King’s iconic 1974 novel, the award winning 1976 film, and the 2013 movie remake, “Carrie the Musical” follows the now classic tale of misfit telekinetic, Carrie, and her unforgettable prom.
Director Matt Williams is no stranger to this production. He choreographed the 2012 off-Broadway revival of the show. Additionally, he’s worked on “All About Me,” with Michael Feinstein, and choreographed Will Ferrell’s one-man show. While Williams said the show follows some elements of both King’s novel and the 1976 film, he’s grateful the cast has the option to go back to “one of the best American horror novels” for answers and guidance.
Choreographer Kim Whittam, also the MFA Dance Assistant to the Director and part of the faculty of the ballet dance program, is working closely with Williams to interpret his vision. She said that this show had considerably less signature choreography than “West Side Story,” the previous show she worked on. For “Carrie the Musical,” she “came at it with a clean palate.”
As a sophomore in the musical theater program, Taylor Aragon is making her theatrical debut as the title character in “Carrie the Musical.” While it contains fantastical moments, she sees it as “a coming of age story, so anyone can relate.” For Aragon, her favorite scenes in the show are the prom sequence, as well as the scene when Tommy asks Carrie to prom. She finds it to be a cute and humane scene that does a lot to ground Carrie.
Hattie Marks, who portrays Margaret – Carrie’s overbearing, religious mother – said she can’t view Margaret as the villain but as a genuine human with her own reasons for doing things. Marks sees her as an angel of God with no choice but to save her daughter. Marks thanked Mark Hardy, a musical theater professor at Montclair State, for being especially helpful as she’s taken what she’s learned in class and brought it to the stage.
Danny LeMache, a sophomore in the musical theater program, is making his main stage debut as Tommy, Carrie’s prom date. He finds it easy to relate to the character because he “was basically Tommy Ross in high school.” As the show has such a sharp focus on the feminine experience, LeMache said he felt the weight of playing the male lead. Because of the story’s focus on the female characters, he finds himself creating his character motivations himself, an exercise he deems challenging but rewarding.
“Carrie the Musical” is almost entirely a student production. With guidance from faculty, Montclair State students are running nearly all elements of the show, from lighting to sound design. System designer Abbie Martin is responsible for speakers, electronic setup, and implementing sound, among other duties. Martin said it’s a lot of work, but very fun and rewarding.
German Martinez, the second sound designer, deals with designing and developing sound effects for the show. Both are grateful for the help and instruction of Scott O’Brien, the head of the sound department.
Rick Sordelet is not only the fight director for the show, but he’s also a leader in the industry with a plethora of Broadway credits, including “Fences,” and “The Lion King.” Sordelet teaches a stage combat course at Montclair State.
For Williams, the best part of working on “Carrie the Musical” is watching the cast grow and discover “the golden nugget of truth in a scene.” An element he included into the set design is a pickup truck, as he said vehicles are often important components of King’s works. For example, King’s novel “Christine” focused on a killer car, and his directorial debut, “Maximum Overdrive,” similarly featured an evil car. The pickup truck on stage works as a multiplatform set piece, functioning for different elements throughout the show.
With such a large turnout for auditions, Williams and his team have created ten additional ensemble characters, each closely based on a character from King’s novel. Working on the production has been a long process, as it’s been going on since Sept. 7. Williams explicitly stated that he wants no one under 14 years old in the auditorium for the show, as it contains adult content, language and themes younger children will have difficulty understanding.
Come and see “Carrie the Musical” at Memorial Auditorium at Montclair State. The show runs from Oct. 20 to Oct. 28. For more information about exact dates and times, students can visit the Peak Performance website.