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Carrie: The Musical (Sonoma)

When you grab a ticket for a show called Carrie: The Musical, you pretty much know what to expect plot-wise  – a stage adaptation of Steven King’s 1974 novel with elements of Brian DePalma’s 1976 film thrown in for good measure. When you see that the show is a production of an entity like the Sonoma Theatre Alliance’s Teens ‘N Training program, you pretty much know what to expect performance-wise – an energetic group of young men and women of varying levels of talent gaining valuable on-stage experience and (hopefully) entertaining an audience. If the production is fortunate enough to have the involvement of some seasoned theatrical veterans, you might expect some of that “seasoning” to rub off on the youthful cast. The challenge for all involved is to at the very least meet and perhaps even exceed those expectations.

The folks in the STA/TNT production of Carrie: The Musical – under the direction of Libby Oberlin – do just fine, starting at the very top with Emily Qvistgaard as the title character.  A show like this can sink or swim with an ineffective performer in the titular role, but Ms. Qvistgarrd is up to the challenge. She acquits herself quite nicely, both with her performance of the shy, awkward and perpetually bullied teen and with the musical demands of the role.

Emily Qvistgaard, Jill Wagoner

She has the advantage of playing several scenes with veteran performer Jill Wagoner as Carrie’s fundamentalist and progressively unhinged mother, Margaret White. Ms Wagoner’s presence and talent lends a substantial degree of gravitas to this production. Wagoner avoids the easy choice to play her character as a psycho-mama and brings depth and subtlety to what could be an over-the-top role.  She also has one hell of a voice. Her musical scenes and duets with Qvistgaard (“Open Your Heart”, “And Eve Was Weak”,  “Evening Prayers”, “I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance”) were some of the highlights of this show. Another highlight was a surprisingly sweet scene with Carrie and P.E. teacher Miss Gardner (Nora Summers) and the performance of “Unsuspecting Hearts”.

Casting high school kids as high school kids might seem like an easy-out to some, but ask someone who works in the education field (or, for that matter, any parent) how easy it is to get a teenager to do ANYTHING you ask them and you might have a greater appreciation for director Oberlin and choreographer Michella Snider’s challenges.

That gentle swipe at American youth aside, the supporting cast does just fine as well. Props to Nica Love as the narrator/survivor of the “night they’ll never forget” for doing a good job bringing the emotional conflicts that many teens deal with in high school to life via her character and to Devin Muller for his on-spot portrayal of a high school jerk. Hmmmm…

In the interests of fairness to our American youth, allow me to take a bigger swipe now at the older generation – the parents and grandparents in the audience.

Folks, your children and grandchildren put a lot of hard work into this production. This wasn’t “Once Upon a Mattress” being done in the school gym. This was a performance of a legitimate work in a public venue that the theatrically-minded community is being asked to financially support.  I was appalled to witness the constant cell-phone recording of scenes, particularly the climactic prom scene which required darkness, shadow and complete audience attention to achieve the desired effect, which was damn near impossible with the constant glow and movement of cell phones being waved around the hall, distracting anyone in view. It was a disservice to this show, to the hard work of the cast and crew, and to the other members of the audience. Your actions made the show less than what it could have been. It took every ounce of restraint for me to not get out of my seat, walk down the aisle, grab one gentleman’s iPhone 6, and tell him he could get it back if he brought his son or daughter to the office tomorrow and explain why he had it out.

Look, guys, I know you’re proud of  your children and of the work they did and that you want to support them.  Each and every one of them deserves that support. Walking out on a stage and willingly taking on the challenges that come with acting and singing and dancing is an incredibly difficult thing to do.  Honor their acceptance of those challenges by giving them your complete attention and stop futzing with your %$#@&! phones!

So if you’d like to support developing young talent and, as a bonus, witness a riveting performance by a local stage veteran, tell your friends and neighbors to consider catching Carrie: The Musical at one of its five remaining performances.

But encourage them to pay particular attention to the scene where harried teacher Mr. Stephens (Rick Love) admonishes one of his students with the following line of dialogue – “Put the cell phone away!”


Carrie: The Musical 

Presented by Sonoma Theatre Alliance Teens ‘n Training

through March 1

Thur, Fri, Sat  @ 8pm, Sat & Sun  @ 2pm

Sonoma Community Center
276 E Napa St
Sonoma, CA 95476

(707) 938-4626 ext 1

Photo by Miller Oberlin

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