Bullies beware…Carrie’s back!

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.

Tiyana Scott and full company in Hart House Theatre’s Carrie: the musical; photo by Scott Gorman

Theatre audiences can relive the horror of high school when Carrie: the musical opens at Hart House Theatre this Friday. Based on Stephen King’s 1974 bestselling novel Carrie and the hit Brian De Palma film of the same name, the original musical version produced on Broadway in 1988 is regarded as the Broadway equivalent of Target Canada…a flop. Despite the involvement of veteran musical-theatre performers, like Maureen McGovern and Betty Buckley, the show closed after just 5 performances when financiers abruptly pulled out.

24 years after that notorious production, the musical was rewritten by original composers Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford, and writer Lawrence D. Cohen. It was revived and staged off-Broadway in 2012 by Toronto-born director Stafford Arima, and was nominated for a slew of awards. Since then, it has been steadily produced worldwide, including runs in Mexico and Moscow last year. Now Toronto audiences can experience it, too.

So…why this musical? And why now? Quite simply, Carrie: the musical is both classic and current. The story of Carrie, the relentlessly bullied and oppressed teenager who uses her telekinetic abilities to lash out at her tormentors, has captured the public consciousness across generations. Carrie might be over 40, but her story is neither unique or irrelevant. In the press release for the show, its director Richard Ouzounian observes,“we are all Carrie. Truly…. Despite all the anti-bullying messages out there, young people of all ethnic and gender identifications are still subject to abuse from their peers simply because of who they are.” The pervasiveness of bullying across cultures and identities is reflected in the diverse casting of young actors. The timely and sobering message in this time of Trump:  no one is immune.

Tiyana Scott and Brittany Miranda in Carrie: the musical; photo by Scott Gorman

To celebrate its debut in Toronto, SesayArts spoke with 4 of the performers about their perspectives on Carrie: the musical.  Part 1 of 2, below, features the actors portraying one of the most infamous mother-daughter duos in literary history: Tiyana Scott, who makes her stage debut in the title role of Carrie White, and Brittany Miranda, who plays her fanatically religious, restrictive mother Margaret.

  1. SesayArts: Carrie exists as a novel, a movie and a musical, which means it’s not only a well-known story but also continually interpreted by a countless number of people…Is it intimidating or liberating that the audience might already have their own interpretation of the characters? How does this affect you when you’re preparing your character?

Tiyana Scott: I will admit I was extremely worried about this role for various reasons, mainly because Carrie is known as an “ugly, scary white girl”. But we are all Carrie. No matter what size, colour or shape you are, anyone can experience bullying. Overall, it is intimidating because people won’t be expecting someone like me to walk onto the stage, but it’s liberating knowing I will do the role justice.

Brittany Miranda: Margaret is such an iconic character who always seems to be described as the evil, abusive and fanatical mother to Carrie. Both the challenge and the intrigue in preparing for this character have been in humanizing her. At the end of the day, Margaret is a mother who dearly loves her daughter, but her negative past experiences and path into religious extremism have altered her perception of love and loyalty. It is liberating to have the opportunity to play such a complex and layered character.

  1. SesayArts: How did your own high-school experience contribute to your process for this show?

Brittany Miranda as Margaret in Carrie: the musical; photo by Scott Gorman

Tiyana Scott: I personally did not have any “Carrie” moments in high school, but I related back to being bullied in elementary school. I really thought about how I felt then and how much it hurts to have people call you things you are not. Also the mother-daughter relationship Brittany and I share on stage…I relate that to the difficult relationship I have with my mother. 

Brittany Miranda: I think almost everybody has gone through a period of time when they have felt like an outsider, especially in elementary and high school. Seeing Carrie experience so much bullying onstage, and delving deeper into Margaret’s own past of abuse and loneliness, is absolutely heart-breaking.

  1. SesayArts: Of the many themes that Carrie: the musical explores, which resonate with you? What do you hope the audience will be talking about after the show?

Tiyana Scott:The fact that we are all Carrie. There are so many points in the show where you can see that anyone can be the next victim, but everyone puts on a front to blend in. We can all be a victim of bullying, whether it is in school, work or home. I want everyone to know that this (show) is relevant. It’s not like the movie or the original musical; it’s relevant. And everyone has worked hard to make it just that. It’s going to be great!

Brittany Miranda: Our director, Richard Ouzounian, has always stressed the idea that “we are all Carrie.” I hope this show inspires audiences to take a stand against bullying in reaching out to people like Carrie. Every day, there are people who are experiencing abuse and/or neglect and being pushed to their breaking points. It is our responsibility as people to find a way to break this endless chain of bullying and remember that we are all people who desire love and acceptance. 

Tiyana Scott as Carrie; photo by Scott Gorman

News You Can Use

What: Carrie: the Musical by Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford and Lawrence D. Cohen

  • Based on the novel by Stephen King
  • Featuring Tiyana Scott, Brittany Miranda, Jacqueline Godbout, Jordan Kenny, Madison Sekulin, Stephane Gaudet, Emma Robson, Bevan Buhler, Alyssa Minichillo, Foskett, Meredith Shedden, Matthew Benenson, Peter Mundell, Ryota Kaneko, Blake Crawford, Sarah D’Cunha, Sydney LaForme, Faly Mevamanana, Sanjay Pavone, Evan Sokolowski
  • Directed by Richard Ouzounian

Who: Audiences 14 years of age and up (mature themes and disturbing scenes)

When: January 20 – February 4, 2017

  • Postshow Talkbacks: Saturday, January 21 and Thursday, January 26
  • Student Matinee: Tuesday, January 31, 12 pm
  • Preshow Artist Chat: Saturday,February 4 at 1 pm

Where: Hart House Theatre, 7 Hart House Circle, Toronto, ON M5S 3H3

For Information and Tickets: HartHouse.ca or 416.978.8849

FYI: Hart House Theatre offers student matinees at $15/ student, and complementary tickets for teachers and chaperones.

Neat to Know: Stephen King: How I wrote Carrie

© 2017 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya

Posted in Opera and Musical Theatre and tagged , , , , .