FSSA’s Production of Carrie is a Hit

by Dylan Sherman

Curtlyn Ifill, a junior vocal major, who played the lead, Carrie White, in the orange cast. 

Last year following the final performance of RENT, many in the audience were surprised when Frank Sinatra School of the Arts’ (FSSA) musical theater director, Dr. Cacciola Price (CP), announced the 2023 musical would be Carrie: The Musical, however, to CP, it made perfect sense. 

Carrie: The Musical made its legendary Broadway debut in 1988, and has since been coined one of the biggest Broadway flops in history (not to mention one of the most expensive), after closing five performances after opening night. 

A show with such a tumultuous reputation turned some heads from prospective FSSA musical theater students, many of whom were familiar with the show, especially after the television series Riverdale did a production of the show. However, the production that was put on by FSSA had been revised since the infamous flop, and was modeled after MCC Theater Company’s 2012 production. 

FSSA’s version of Carrie, which closed this past Saturday, March 25, was a modern, campy and surprisingly relatable musical for a show about a mass murder through telekinesis. The opening number expresses many of these modern concerns, with students worrying about SAT scores, romantic endeavors, and being accepted socially. Throughout the production, one of the story’s main characters, Sue Snell, stresses that “we were just kids,” establishing a personal connection to those on stage. 

FSSA’s Stagecraft elective once again was in charge of the technical aspects of the show, led by Andre Vazquez and FSSA alum Patrick Thompson Jr. Many Stagecraft students, however, shared worries regarding the production. 

 “When I found out Carrie had a lot of special effects like the blood drop, self-closing doors, etcetera, I was initially worried about how we would build them. But, with a lot of white-boarding and engineering we were able to pull it off in time,” said Maya Held, a senior instrumental major, and two year member of stagecraft, who worked as the show’s projectionist, as well as a production assistant. 

The technical aspects of the show were essential in developing the “different” Carrie as well, with crop tops, ripped jeans, and glowing cell phones establishing the time period, and possibly making the show more modern. While the MCC adaptation encouraged modernity, many of these elements were actually implemented by FSSA’s actors and director in order to make the show feel more relevant.

Seniors Ryan Stahl and Olivia Summer in the blue cast for Carrie.

The show also utilized a student run pit orchestra, which included eight upperclassmen instrumental majors. The pit orchestra met during sixth period everyday leading up to the show’s performance. 

Elizabeth Puccini, the mother of pit pianist Linden Runnel, a senior instrumental major, was particularly impressed.

“I was skeptical when I heard the musical this year was going to be Carrie. I didn’t even know a musical had been made of the story. But the music was fantastic and the production amazing. Everyone from the singers to the pit to the stage crew did such an incredible job. It felt like I was watching a professional production,” Mrs. Puccini said. 

A stand out was “The World According to Chris,” which replicated a high school pool party. The song has a particularly special moment, when the main character, Chris Hargensen reveals that the potential motivation for her cruel behavior, implying that she is mean before other people can be mean back to her. 

Another standout moment was with the song “A Night We’ll Never Forget,” which is sung by the ensemble at the beginning of the second act. The number features more moments from the story’s ensemble, developing distinct characters that contributed to the high school feel in the piece, as well as providing a sense of foreboding for the events that were about to take place. 

The distinct characters developed by the ensemble were a highlight of the piece. Junior drama major Nico Small created a special connection, as he made his character have a crush on one of the story’s villains, Billy Nolan. 

“I heard a lot about Carrie when it was announced, and that it was a Broadway flop… in the very beginning, I did not know how CP was going to make this modern,” said junior drama major Maxson Dennis, who played Billy in the orange cast. 

Seniors Linda Titone and Matthew Macneal in the blue cast for Carrie.

Nonetheless, the musical theater department was once again able to rise to the challenge. FSSA’s traditional orange and blue cast system was once again utilized, with mostly seniors in the blue cast. However, many senior students made their FSSA musical theater debuts during Carrie, one of which being Ryan Stahl, a senior vocal major who played the titular role of Carrie White. 

“I have been wanting to get into musical theater here for years. I tried out every year, and never got anywhere, and when I found out the musical was Carrie, I freaked out with joy. I could play Carrie,” Ryan said. 

The show presented multiple chances for both casts to shine, with an active ensemble that was double cast as well with eight shows performed between them. Carrie this year also featured many female leads, which according to CP, was intentional. 

“There’s not a lot of shows that are really female-heavy in terms of performance opportunities. It’s really challenging to find this many female-identifying roles in a musical. We always have so many really talented young women and female-identifying performers, and the guys are always good, but it always feels like we have way more really awesome girls that don’t always get an opportunity,” CP said. 

In choosing a show like Carrie, students were able to challenge themselves. One of these students was Curtlyn Ifill, a junior vocal major, who played the lead, Carrie White, in the orange cast. 

“I’ve never been in any musicals. I kind of did it to try and expand my vocal ability and to be able to sing a wider range of genres, and I ended up actually getting in. I grew, and I got better,” Curtlyn said. 

junior drama major Maxson Dennis, who played Billy in the orange cast for Carrie

FSSA’s musical theater department was able to use interdisciplinary skills to come together and create one, cohesive project. With a new show came a new set of challenges, all of which were certainly resolved by closing night, as the casts took their final bows to the sold-out Tony Bennett Concert Hall.

During the final performance of Carrie, CP announced next year’s musical for FSSA: Titanic.