StageWest opens season with ‘Carrie: The Musical’

(Photo: Andrea Markowski/Special to the Register )

Article by Michael Morain

How bad was “Carrie: The Musical” when it opened on Broadway in 1988?

So bad the New York Times compared it to the Hindenburg disaster.

So bad it closed after three days and still lost $8 million.

So bad somebody wrote a book about 200 musical flops — 200! — and at the Des Moines Social Club. Director Todd Buchacker admitted that he doesn’t know how it will make viewers feel — not freaked out, exactly, but not laughing, either, like they did at the “Evil Dead” musical two years ago.

He guessed people might say, “I thought there would be more blood.”

The story, of course, comes from the 1973 novel that made Stephen King famous, about an awkward teenager who is bullied by her classmates at school and by her fanatically religious mother at home. After a humiliating night at the prom, the poor girl flips out and uses her telekinetic powers to destroy everyone and everything in its path. It does not end well.

And neither did that original Broadway run. The story didn’t adapt to the stage as well as it had to the screen (with Sissy Spacek), but those early theater audiences actually did like the scenes with Carrie and her mother, who received standing ovations even amid all the rest of the booing.

So a few years ago, a new creative team got together to try to bring the show back to life. They kept the songs that worked, threw out the ones that didn’t, and re-wrote the whole story from the perspective of one of the classmates.

It opened off-Broadway in 2012 and did well enough response to encourage regional and community companies like StageWest to produce it on their own stages.

“It’s a fun, splashy way to open the season, especially for Halloween,” Buchacker said. “It’s very different from the original production.”

And hey, all StageWest has to do is not lose $8 million on the first weekend — which would be hard to do for a company whose annual budget is about $290,000. So Buchacker is optimistic.

“I just think people will say ‘Wow, that’s not what I expected. I didn’t see that coming, but — wow — that was good.”

‘Carrie: The Musical’

WHEN: Opening Friday. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 26.

WHERE: Des Moines Social Club, 900 Mulberry St.

TICKETS: $25-$30, with half-price rush seats on Wednesdays.

INFO: www.stagewestiowa.com