“Carrie: The Musical” Kills at the Beck Center

“Carrie: the Musical” was captivating from the first pulsing orchestral chords and jaw-dropping dance numbers to the incredible vocal displays. The musical, put on by the Baldwin Wallace University Music Theatre Department in partnership with Playhouse Square’s Beck Center, had enough plot twists and suspenseful moments to keep anyone on the edge of their seat.
The musical, based on the popular novel by Stephen King, is driven by the titular character Carrie White, a shy misfit teenager from Chamberlain High School who is cruelly bullied by the “in” crowd. Her “bible thumping,” highly overprotective mother, Margaret White, dominates Carrie’s life with fear tactics and sets her up to become a social outcast. When Carrie discovers she has telekinetic powers, everything changes and she gains confidence in herself. The play culminates at the prom where her classmates play a cruel prank causing Carrie to wreak havoc on everyone present. The final scenes are staggering.
Victoria Bussert, director for Great Lakes Theatre and BW’s Director of Music Theatre, is the director of the production. Bussert is known for taking on edgy, non-traditional projects. She has also directed “Spring Awakening,” for which she won Cleveland Critics Circles’ Best Director award in 2012, and “Lizzie Borden: The Rock Musical” at the Beck center, to name a few.
The all-star cast is led by senior Caitlin Houlahan as Carrie White. Houlahan doed not just act as Carrie–-she is Carrie. She transitions  from sweet and naïve girl to powerful, terrifying sorceress in a matter of seconds, leaving everyone watching with chills. Houlahan’s voice switches effortlessly from soft and sweet to a powerful belt.
Sophomore Sara Masterson is captivating as Sue Snell-narrator and witness to the unfolding story. Her character alternates between describing the events leading up to the catastrophic prom night and playing her part as the story unfolds.
Junior Genna-Paige Kanago plays the ultimate mean girl, Chris Hargensen, who is the driving force behind the cruel prank played on Carrie at the prom. She has just the right amount of snarky attitude to make you hate her, but also shows her vulnerable side and gains some sympathy from the audience. Her rock-style belt is well executed, but at times made it hard to understand what she was singing and left the audience confused.
Freshman standout Colton Ryan plays Tommy Ross, Sue Snell’s boyfriend and Carrie’s prom date, He made his character’s “good boy” attitude believable. Ryan’s smooth tenor voice adds to his character’s identity and likeability.
Katherine DeBoer, seasoned actress and member of the Actors Equity Association, was truly terrifying as Margaret White. Her ominous presence and ghoulish facial expressions gave me goose bumps.
The chorus was lead by junior Sam Wolf who plays the typical high school super-senior with reckless abandon and raging hormones.
Nancy Maier, Interim Music Director in the BW musical theater department, does an excellent job of making sure the bold score does not overpower the performers.
Gregory Daniels, a BW dance faculty member, choreographed some incredible numbers incorporating gymnastics, modern and contemporary dance in a way that emulate raging teenage hormones as well as vulnerability.
I was disappointed with the lack of decorations in the highly anticipated prom scene. A couple disco balls just didn’t cut it. The costume choices confused me at times as to what decade the musical was set, and the prom dresses and tuxedos had much to be desired.
“Carrie: The Musical” is a must see. The ensemble is phenomenal–dare I say Broadway worthy?–and captivate from beginning to end.  Excellent performances, breathtaking dancing and enough energy to keep anyone interested make this a must-see production.
“Carrie: The Musical” continues through March 9th at the Beck Center for the Arts, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood. For tickets call 216-521-2540 or visit www.beckcenter.org. Student tickets are available for $15.