Is it unprofessional of me to admit that what got me to buy a ticket to Carrie: the Musical was not to support the local arts, but the prospect of a musical filled with blood and a murderous rampage?
Even if, I won’t let you all shame me. I hadn’t been this excited to watch a musical since Little Shop of Horrors or Sweeney Todd (are you beginning to sense a theme?), and I was really looking forward to seeing how the Galway University Musical Society would handle such a gory tale.
I admit it. I wanted to see litres of blood spilt over Carrie as she used her telekinesis powers to slaughter all those pesky teenagers. And by God did I get it.
But that’s not all I got.
Adorning this melodic tale of gore and murder were charismatic leads, an enthusiastic live band, and a rounded cast of background actors who did such a good job that I almost missed the bucket of blood in favour of watching their performances.
All in all, it was a bloody brilliant time.
I was lucky enough to attend the closing night, which to me is always the most emotional and committed of performances. This was no exception. It was clear even at the beginning how much sweat, tears and blood (both literally and figuratively) had gone into this production, constituting a final show for some of the crew who were moving on.
There was an amusing warning voiced by an ominous voice at the top of the show that warned the audience of the vices and debauchery that would be at full display in Carrie, a list that seemed to extend into infinity as the audience realised the absurdity of trying to warn them about the dangers of Carrie. It was a story about pain and suffering, and it was clear that they weren’t going to shy away from it.
As the lights dropped and the musical began, I was instantly mesmerised by the live band playing in the back. I could only see the faint outline of a conductor passionately instructing her musicians: an engaged and committed performance. It was a performance of frenetic movements that filled the stage with a stellar musical score for the actors to engage with.
I was particularly fond of a wonderful cherry-red Chuck Berry guitar that, at times, when a stage light would catch it just right, would shine like a bloody streak across the stage.
As for the actors themselves, it should come as no surprise that Katie Feeney, the titular Carrie, was phenomenal. She would belt out songs whose excellence were only matched by her introspective portrayal of a young woman choosing to hope. It was in the scenes with her mother that this was fully evident. Ms Feeney chose to pause in silence when lesser actors would have howled with pain, it was an effective tool to communicate Carrie’s loss of hope and family that only endeared us more to the character.
A shocking development considering she would soon end the lives of all her classmates in a fit of murderous fury.
Speaking on amazing performances, I just cannot emphasisee how good the background actors were. Even with practically no lines, many of them managed to tell intricate stories and define their characters just through movements and side narratives. At times, I even found myself watching them instead of the primary action on stage, hence the near-miss of the infamous bucket. This is not to say that any of it was boring, merely that the amount of attention put into these characters was impressive, to say the least. To give an example, there was a scene in a classroom where these background actors, without saying anything, managed to tell stories that not only furthered the plot but revealed more about their characters; characters which other productions would have ignored in favour of the protagonists.
In specific, I would love to highlight the performance of a woman who, despite not having a single line of dialogue in the entire production, gave engaging performance after engaging performance, displaying a commitment to the success of the show that manifested in every single dance and stride across the stage. She succeeded, multiple times, in stealing away my attention and holding it for the duration of entire segments merely because of her obvious love for performing and the material. While I don’t know her name, the woman in the red beanie deserves her own show.
Lastly, there would be no musical about a young woman who develops telekinetic powers without the practical effects. These effects, while subtle, set an eerie mood that hinted towards their bloody outcome. Effects such as a levitating bible and chairs sent flying across the stage, helped the audience visualise the extent of her abilities and made us dread her inevitable use of them. The blood itself, of which I am a big fan (in case you hadn’t already realised), was made up of a bright red tint that contrasted and intertwined with Carrie’s white dress in a delightfully macabre way.
All of this considered, GUMS can safely count me amongst their many admirers for producing a show that was never shy about its themes but also not bombastic, walking a fine line between gory sensationalism and restrained emotion. Well done everyone and I await eagerly for your next production.