With Halloween just around the corner, we’re celebrating notable spooky musicals that have appeared both on and off Broadway! Horror has always been a tricky genre to capture live on stage but when it works, it is an absolute treat. Our Geniuses have done some research and we’re ready to report back to you with some of our findings.
We’re launching our series with a show that failed to achieve both critical acclaim and box office success. The show is the musical Carrie which is still widely considered one of the most notorious flops in Broadway history.
Based on Stephen King’s best selling novel and the popular 1976 film, the musical did not fare nearly as well as the film adaptation or the source material. The stage version was nearly entirely sung through and staged in the tradition of a Greek tragedy. The show featured a book by the film’s screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, lyrics by Dean Pitchford, and music by Michael Gore. Gore and Pitchford had previously collaborated on songs for the film Fame. A major criticism of the show was the unintentionally comic presentation of Carrie’s telekinetic powers. Additionally, clunky pop lyrics did not manage to captivate audiences – particularly the Act II opener which musicalized the teenagers’ quest for pig’s blood.
The musical had its world premiere with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, England in February 1988. The production featured direction by Terry Hands and choreography by Debbie Allie. The cast included Broadway veteran Barbara Cook as Margaret White and newcomer Linzi Hateley in the title role. The production was plagued with script and technical problems. For example, the crew was unable to douse Ms. Hateley with fake blood without causing microphone to malfunction. On opening night, Ms. Cook nearly suffered severe injuries from an elaborate set piece causing her to resign from the show. She stayed with the musical for the remainder of the run in England.
Despite mixed reviews and a plethora of technical issues, the musical transferred to Broadway’s Virginia Theatre in the spring. Ms. Cook officially left the show and was replaced by Betty Buckley, who ironically had appeared in the film version of Carrie. The show opened on Thursday, May 12, 1988 to scathing reviews from critics. Carrie closed on Sunday, May 15 after only 5 performances at an $8 million loss.
The show has since been been produced frequently in regional theatres. Most notably, a 2012 Off Broadway revival at MCC reunited Gore, Pitchford, and Cohen who collaborated on heavily revising the book and score. This production also led to the first-ever cast album of the show.
Be sure to check back next week for a glimpse into another spooky show!