Carrie: The Musical – Successful Benefit Concert

Written on November 24th, 2015

Successful Benefit Concert – Carrie: The Musical

We are very proud of our son Thomas who recently produced and directed Carrie: The Musical in concert as a benefit for the Actors’ Fund.

Carrie (the novel) was first published in 1974 and started Stephen King on his amazing career as a horror writer.  The movie came out in 1976 with this promotional blurb:

“Carrie White is shy and outcast 17-year old girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, and unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates for the last time at her senior prom.”

Then in 1988, the musical was created, and made a very short run on Broadway.  Despite the fact that it was selling out, it received scathing reviews and closed quickly.

But in 2012, it was revised, updated and produced off-Broadway.  Thomas saw the production and was very impressed.  It’s more about bullying than about telekinetic powers, and has some really beautiful songs.  He started thinking about bringing the musical to Toronto.  He began to plan his dream cast, eventually bringing them on board:

Tess Benger as Carrie and Lisa Horner as her Mother in the dressing room after the performance.

Carrie White: Tess Bengers
Margaret White: Lisa Horner
Sue Snell: Julia McLellan
Tommy Ross: Michael Cox
Chris Hargensen: Jennifer Rider-Shaw
Billy Nolan: Jeremy Walmsley
Miss Gardner: Lili Connor
Mr. Stephens: Andrew Scanlon
Frieda: Tessa Gooden
Norma: Jade Repeta
Helen: Tringa Rexhepi
George: Isaac Bell
Stokes: Alessandro Costantini
Freddy: Alex DeLeo

The Creative Team included Thomas as Director, Lucas Meeuse as Music Director, Justin Stadnyk as Sound Designer, Oz Weaver as Production Manager, and Julia McLellan as Costume Designer.  The Band was comprised of Lucas Meeuse on piano, Mark Laidman on bass, Pieter Huyer on drums and Josh Wiles on guitar.

Thomas contacted Alessandro Costantini of YES Theatre to produce the concert along with his friend Lili Connor.  The show would be a benefit in support of The Actors’ Fund of Canada, organization that assists actors, musicians, and entertainment professionals if they require emergency financial aid.   While ticket sales and expenses are still being tabulating, they expect to donate in excess of $2,000 for the Actors’ Fund.  Full credit goes to the cast and crew for volunteering their time.

“I wanted Tess Benger to play Carrie.  She’s a great actor and her voice range was perfect for the music.  She is able to be sweet and vulnerable, and that’s how I wanted to portray Carrie,” Thomas explains.  Tess has just wrapped up her second season at the Shaw Festival, in You Never Can Tell, Top Girls and The Next Whisky Bar.  In 2014, she was in The Philadelphia Story and Cabaret.  Among other credits, Tess was Anne in Anne of Green Gables for two seasons at the Charlottetown Festival and she was a top 10 finalist in CBC’s Triple Sensation, season 2.  For Drayton Entertainment, Tess has been Liesl in The Sound of Music, Wendy in Peter Pan, and Olive in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  She was part of the ensemble in the Drayton production of Camelot which then went on a North American tour.

“The legendary Lisa Horner was my top choice to play Margaret White, Carrie’s mother.  I can’t believe she said yes!” Thomas says, “We see her so often in comedic roles, but she is so capable of everything.” Lisa is a Dora Award Winner who is currently in Mirvish’s Kinky Boots.  She is well-known for her roles as Mme Thenardier in Mirvish’s Les Mis and Miss Gulch/The Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz, among many other roles at Stratford and Shaw Festivals and other theatres across Canada.

Jennifer Rider-Shaw was the bully Chris Hargensen.  “Jen was perfect in the part.  I wanted to avoid the stereotypical mean girl that would become a caricature,” Thomas explains, “Jen played Chris as someone who is easily annoyed and nasty, but she made it real.”  Jen has been in 11 musicals at the Stratford Festival, including 42nd Street where she had the lead role of Peggy Sawyer.  She returns to Stratford next season as Maggie in A Chorus Line.

Playing Sue Snell, Julia McLellan is also part of the current cast of Kinky Boots.  “Julia, like Sue, has a really kind heart,” Thomas says, “I had her in mind because she is perfect for the role; she has the perfect voice for the part.”  Julia played opposite her real-life boyfriend Mike Cox, who played Tommy Ross.  Their duet “You Shine” was beautiful.  Julia was alternate Dorothy in the North American tour of Wizard of Oz and starred as Ariel Moore in Drayton Entertainment’s production of Footloose.  Next year, she will be playing the role of Val in A Chorus Line at Stratford Festival.

This marked the first time a professional cast presented Carrie in Canada.  Equity members appeared with the express permission of Canadian Actors’ Equity Association.  This also marked the first opportunity for Toronto to hear the music.  The show was presented before a nearly full house of over 400.

Many of those involved with Carrie are also part of the cast of Mirvish’s Kinky Boots, now on stage at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, including Thomas, and Lisa Horner,  Julia McLellan, Andrew Scanlon, Alex DeLeo, and Justin Stadnyk.

Carrie: The Musical
Music by Michael Gore
Lyrics by Dean Pitchford
Book by Lawrence D. Cohen
Based on the novel by Stephen King

 

 

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