Premiere Cast Recording of Carrie: The Musical

Why, yes, I am one of the people who bought the Premiere Cast Recording of Carrie: The Musical.

This post is going to presume a familiarity with Stephen King’s novel, Carrie, and a familiarity with the conventions of musical theater. Spoilers, for a book published in 1974 and a musical that almost no-one has seen, follow.

1. Yes, I liked the soundtrack.

2. When Molly Ranson lets loose in the massive finale, she can seriously sing.

3. My favorite musical numbers, as I said, are the complicated ones in which six characters are singing at or across each other about different topics and it all comes together at the end. Carrie has a couple of those.

4. I laughed at the name change of the gym teacher from Miss Desjardin to Miss Gardner. Because, well, desjardin means gardner. One of the things that completely grounds King’s work in New England is the prevalence of French-derived names. I appreciate that.

5. I remember reading this book as a teenager and … sort of missing all the rage-empowerment parts. I mean, I read them, they were there. (This isn’t like the Nazis in The Sound of Music)

(Okay, let me explain. As a kid I had to go to bed at the intermission of the television broadcasts of The Sound of Music, so for the LONGEST time I thought it was a movie about a family of kids getting a mother. I didn’t realize there were Nazis in the movie until I was a teenager.)

Anyway!

I read the end of Carrie, I did. But my adolescent take-away from the novel was that one’s peers really were evil, and that hoping otherwise was a fool’s game to be avoided at all costs.

Flee the planet like a Heinlein hero; don’t fight for real change on earth.

6. Having been listening to the soundtrack, I re-read the novel for the first time in years. I had hoped to get a better handle on Tommy as a character. I never understood him much when I was younger. He seemed very …. milquetoast. On re-reading, I am still a bit unclear on his internal workings. But, then, he dies and can’t write a tell-all book.

7. Re-reading the novel, I was struck, as I always was, by the hurtling train-wreck feeling of this book. It’s a feeling I love in fiction.

Well, when I’m up for it. Sometimes it’s too depressing.

The best/worst train wrecks are the ones in which, for a moment, it could go differently. (Arthur could forgive Jenny and Lance, is my eternal example.) Carrie actually doesn’t have this, really. At the moment that Carrie thinks it might go okay, the bucket is already waiting for her. But the effect in the writing is such that it feels like things might turn out okay. And then, well, blood and fire and vengeance raineth down.

8. My son tells me from time to time that he’s working on gaining super-powers. I just hug him when he says this. I hug him and tell him I once spent years of my life trying for the same.

When I was in seventh and eighth grade I was picked on from time to time. In retrospect it’s … it’s hard to judge how serious the problem was. By modern educational institution standards, it was a problem, certainly. Was I bothered by it at the time?

I think I was. Not because I remember the details super-well, but because I remember the ferocious concentration I devoted to developing telekinesis. Or, really, pyrokinesis would have been hella better. I remember trying my absolute utmost to set him on fucking fire.

9. Margaret White is a fantastically awful creation of a character. I think that, having met her in fiction when I was eleven or twelve, I have never once since been surprised by real-life reports of hideous parents. Appalled, yes. But never surprised.

10. Did I mention I love the train-wreck hurtling of this story? I do. I particularly like how the narration in the book is carried — inexorably — forward by the news articles and book excerpts. I am pretty sure that King’s writing was the place I first encountered that.

11. The tl;dr? If you love this book, you’ll like the soundtrack. If you love all musical theater, you’ll like this soundtrack.

If you love musical theater when it is fantastic, but are meh on it the rest of the time, I advise caution. The singing is good, yes, and the score is fine, but I found the book to be merely adequate. I could guess the final words in most lyric lines, which indicates a certain lack of creativity. If that’s not a problem for you, then, great! The Premiere Cast Recording is available on Amazon, certainly. That’s where I downloaded it.

12. The point where Carrie is making her dress is the point where I falter in my reading, every time. I don’t want to see it end the same way, again. I wish a better future for her. But I read it anyway.

I read it anyway because … because I feel like I have to honor the path she made on her way out. Sometimes people get out of horrible things with dignity and honor. Sometimes people get out of horrible things and are scarred and flinchy and battered. Sometimes people get out of horrible things by countering rage with rage, fear with fear, terror with terror. (Or, all of these at once.)

It’s not a path I want to experience or be around, certainly. But there’s an emotional truth there that I feel deserves recognition. Out is out, blood and fire notwithstanding. Carrie used the best tools she had available to her at the time. I can wish her life different, but I can’t really be upset with the choices she made.

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9 Responses

  1. “Tommy as a character. I never understood him much when I was younger. He seemed very …. milquetoast. On re-reading, I am still a bit unclear on his internal workings.”

    There’s probably an interesting discussion about where the agency resides in this book — if I recall correctly (and I may have it mixed up with the film, which I think is a bit different;; I’m not familiar with the musical or soundtrack) Tommy is basically just doing what Sue tells him in order to expiate Sue’s guilt for participating in bullying Carrie. Tommy is doomed but he’s also just kind of getting batted around like a pinball, in a way that neither Sue nor Carrie is (for the unrepentant bully kids, it’s a bit less clear — they ARE making choices but they’re almost just mob-mentality choices.

    I don’t know what I think about Margaret’s agency, either — is she a monster because she’s been mistreated all her life, and if so is that a conscious reaction she’s created in order to assert herself (horrible and destructive but yet a way of saying ‘I exist!’ that’s not so different from Carrie’s) or is it just that she really can’t/doesn’t want to help herself?

  2. @Caroline King says, in Danse Macabre and in many interviews, that Tommy is a pawn, batted about by the women. But … but real humans are always something more than just pawns. They get something out of their acquiescence. I think it might just be that Tommy gets to keep thinking of himself as A Nice Guy …

    Margaret is, yeah, a mixed bag. The backstory we are given for her is, however, not one of terrible mistreatment. I think there’s a certain amount of mental illness, a certain amount of mistreatment, and a certain amount of willful harm.

  3. You know, I was remembering Margaret having been abused by her husband, but that wasn’t actually the case, was it? This clearly says as much about what I’m inclined to project onto ‘bad parent’ stories, whereas (from my admittedly limited experience of his work) King doesn’t seem to have a problem with human evil as fundamentally inexplicable.

    And yeah, Tommy isn’t much of a character, which might be a reflection of the idea that characters who don’t make choices don’t get/need much development (whereas I tend to think you need to graph POV & agency on different axes).

  4. I give him a little bit of slack, since this was his first novel, on the POV-agency conflation.

    I actually *like* that evil is multi-caused in King’s work. Sometimes it’s abuse, sometimes it’s mental illness, sometimes it’s vampires, sometimes it’s governmental agencies. 🙂

  5. I made the terrible mistake of attempting to read Carrie for the first time in *seventh grade.* I am fairly certain that my seventh grade experience was even a notch or two worse than the average, which is already, GOD, SEVENTH GRADE. I think I made it through the first chapter, and have never even ATTEMPTED it again, and probably never will. Some things are just TOO ON THE NOSE.

  6. And that sounded very dramatic and, well, seventh-grade-ish! I’m just tired. 🙂

  7. @spuff Well, *yes*! King does a fantastic job at capturing the emotions of that! :grins:

  8. ” My son tells me from time to time that he’s working on gaining super-powers.”

    I also worked very hard on aquiring special powers in junior and senior high. These involved not being called on when I wanted not to be. Mostly it worked, too. “Look at me!” and “nothing to see here, move along” are both learnable body language skills.

    As an adult I’ve been muddling along doing things that interest me. Two years ago at a WisCon dinner outing I told a new aquaintance that I have a black belt in aikido and a Ph.D. in plant genetics. She said “wow, you’re a super hero!”. I certainly don’t think of my skills like that, but I can see how it might look that way to someone with a completely different skill set. My advice to M is to keep working on his super hero skills. Someday that work will pay off.

  9. @Lynn Absolutely. Right now he’s spending skill points in *SCIENCE*. 🙂

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