Scared you, didn’t I?
Well get used to it because in honor of October I’m going to be doing solely horror/supernatural-type posts every week and what better way to start that off than by reviewing the premiere cast recording of Carrie which dropped a couple weeks ago?
I know, I know, you’ve all heard enough from me about Carrie, but I love it so I’m gonna keep talking about it. Plus I’m a little limited as far as theatrical horror goes, so…
First off, the album art. I hate it. I hate it, I hate it, and I hate it. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad but it doesn’t look particularly professional or interesting to me. When I first saw it I thought it looked alright. I wasn’t wild about the title font but the silhouette among flames was an alright image. Then for some reason when I noticed the disco ball it ruined it for me. I don’t think it fits in with the stylized look of the rest of the art and on top of that, does it really need to be so direct and obvious about the setting? Everyone knows that the horrific climax of Carrie take place at the prom; the disco ball is an unnecessary cliched image that does nothing for the composition.
What was wrong with the actual poster art used for the show? I love the picture of Molly (though I don’t think Carrie would be allowed to show that much of her legs, let’s be real) and if they didn’t want to use her actual image in the album cover that scratchy font title on a black background would have been far more interesting, in my opinion.
I just feel like the official album art looks like the simple imagery we see on those “Kids Sing Broadway” or karaoke CDs. Also, I’d like to point out that with the placement of the fire in relation to Carrie she shouldn’t be able to cast a shadow the way she is, unless there’s some kind of floodlight shining on her.
Well I’ve dwelt on that long enough. Let’s get down to reviewing the actual music!
“In” opens with its newly angsty tones. It gets a little overly dramatic (and oh so so angsty!) but as I said when I reviewed the show I do like the song. And let’s remember it is sung by high schoolers, so overly dramatic angst is hardly unrealistic. The ensemble is great here. Their yearning in this shared Want Song is apparent and the harmonies are fantastic. You can enjoy a video of the recording session cut with performance footage here:
“Carrie” sounds a little different than I remember. I don’t remember it having this much of a jazz/pop sound but it’s not at all unpleasant. Molly sounds lovely. Still not wild about this song in general though.
I’m glad they kept in the radio segment of “Open Your Heart”, it’s possibly my favorite change that was made to the original score. It didn’t drastically change anything, just made a nice new layer to an already lovely song. Marin’s performance is really beautiful here. Unfortunately “And Eve Was Weak” remains a letdown. It just does. It’s not awful but the lowered keys, lacking orchestrations, and slower pace just don’t make it the showstopper it deserves to be. This song should be thrilling and on this recording it’s just…just.
There’s also this one lyric of Carrie’s in the song that used to be
I thought I was dying/I started crying
which is now
Then I started crying/I thought I was dying
and I can’t stand it. The second verse now has an extra syllable and Molly has to spit it out so fast to fit it in the same measure and there’s just no good reason for it. All I can imagine is that they thought “dying” was a more powerful word than “crying” and should therefore come after to give the emotion more of a swell but if that’s it I don’t feel it’s a good enough reason to make an awkward change such as this.
“The World According to Chris” is an awful song to have follow “And Eve Was Weak”. I actually had to stop and check my iTunes to see if it somehow skipped something in between because the transition from the previous song’s intensity into this one’s pop is nonexistent. If there were some dialogue to set up the song or maybe an instrumental track between the two it could really fix the problem but as it is the two just butt up against each other horrendously. It makes “The World According to Chris”, a song I wasn’t particularly pleased with when seeing the show, seem all the more insipid. I really forgot just how awful some of the lyrics are in this song:
Thankfully the recording picks up from here with a moving rendition of “Evening Prayers”, possibly my favorite song for Marin; Tommy’s poem “Dreamer in Disguise” is performed so nicely by Derek Klena and the song does great things for his character and the idea that Carrie falls for him despite herself; and Sue’s lovely “Once You See” where she finally realizes how deeply she hurt Carrie and why it’s wrong in a song that’s much more moving than either “White Star” or “It Hurts to be Strong”. I even really like this recording of “Unsuspecting Hearts” which I never enjoyed before. It’s somehow less cheesy between Carmen Cusack and Molly Ranson than it was between Darlene Love and Linzi Hateley, probably because of the overall direction of both shows.
I don’t love “I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance” but it’s alright. “A Night We’ll Never Forget” replaces both “Wotta Night” and “Out for Blood” and it does a great job at it. At this point I’m realizing that I think the show is most successful when it’s with the teens while I find the scenes between Carrie and her mother disappointing. Those Carrie/Margaret scenes were just so powerful in the original Broadway production that they seem underwhelming in this production and on this recording. Maybe it’s unfair of me to judge the two in comparison -scratch that, I know it’s unfair of me to compare the two but it’s literally impossible for me to get Linzi Hateley and Betty Buckley’s performances out of my head while listening to these songs.
That said, I do love a lot of what Marin Mazzie does with the role. Her “When There’s No One” is probably my favorite version of the song because it’s one that really suits her voice. She has a sweet, sorrowful sound in the song and of course brings her great acting skills to the song.
I’m still not a big fan of “The Destruction” in this production, but the falling action afterward with Margaret and Sue is really nice and ends the story beautifully. It’s definitely a change from the unsettling endings of the novel and original film, but I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with that.
Overall I think this CD is an accurate capture of the Off-Broadway revival. Like with the show, there were parts I loved, parts I really disliked, and a few parts I was just ambivalent toward. I think it’s worth a listen but I’m too conflicted to really give it a strong recommendation.