Open Stage of Harrisburg is dipping into some historic Broadway lore for its newest production, “Carrie: The Musical.”
You may remember the name as the title character in Stephen King’s scary 1974 novel “Carrie.”
Carrie White was a shy, misfit teen who unleashed telekinetic horror at her high school prom after some classmates played a cruel, practical joke on her involving a bucket of pig blood.
Teen angst, vicious bullying and spectacular violence. Sounds like fertile ground for a rock musical, right?
The answer to that question actually has been keenly debated ever since “Carrie: The Musical” made its Broadway debut on May 12, 1988.
The show, greeted with a mixture of boos and standing ovations, closed just three days later. That made it one of the most comprehensive failures in Broadway history, earning it title space in Ken Mandelbaum’s excellent 1992 book, “Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops.”
But this musical, created by Lawrence D. Cohen (who also wrote the screenplay for Brian De Palma’s unforgettable 1976 film version) with music by Academy Award winner Michael Gore (“Fame”) and lyrics from Academy Award winner Dean Pitchford (“Footloose”), keeps coming back from the grave.
A revised version with several new songs was staged Off-Broadway in 2012, closing after one month and 46 performances. A 2015 production in London of the revised score was well-received, leading to a further revised production later that year in Los Angeles’ La Mirada Theatre.
That show was well-received, earning five Ovation Award nominations from the L.A. Stage Alliance and leading to talk of a national tour. More recently, the musical was incorporated into an episode of the CW show “Riverdale.”
Open Stage has prepared its own production of the now-hot show, which opens Sept. 29 at the downtown theater in the Walnut Street parking garage.
Directed by Open Stage Artistic Director Stuart Landon, this rendition of “Carrie: The Musical” stars Kayla Brooks in the title role, while Rachel Landon has the plum role of Carrie’s screw-loose mother, Margaret.
The show, being billed as perfect for the Halloween season, runs through Oct. 21.
Chambersburg Community Theatre launches its 65th season on Sept. 21 with a much tamer offering, the Elvis Presley-inspired, Tony Award-winning musical “Bye Bye Birdie” from 1960.
The musical, which follows the impact of a rock ’n’ roll teen idol’s impending entry into the U.S. Army on a group of teens in small-town Ohio, has proven to be a durable hit in the intervening years, driven by a catchy score and the depiction of a more innocent age in American history.
“Bye Bye Birdie,” with music and lyrics by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse from a book by Michael Stewart, tells the story of self-centered pop superstar Conrad Birdie, who has been drafted into the Army, just as Presley was in real life in 1957.
As a sort of last-minute publicity stunt, Birdie’s handlers decide to have the singer perform the song “One Last Kiss” on “The Ed Sullivan Show” before he ships out. The highlight will be an actual kiss from Birdie to a young girl selected randomly from his fan club members.
Unfortunately the young woman chosen, 15-year-old Kim MacAfee of Sweet Apple, Ohio, recently resigned from the fan club after getting engaged to young Hugo Peabody. When Conrad and his entourage arrive in Sweet Water for the big event, it causes a rift between the young couple.
The show, which won four Tonys including Best Musical, runs through Sept. 30 at the Capitol Theatre in downtown Chambersburg.
Comedy and horror
Creepy mansions are at the center of two shows this month at Cumberland County theaters.
At Allenberry Playhouse near Boiling Springs, “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” is entering its final weekend.
Set during a snowstorm at the estate of a wealthy philanthropist, “Musical Comedy Murders” by John Bishop is a retro farce about a gathering of theater people being stalked by a serial killer known as the “Stage Door Slasher.” The play is both a parody of show business and a sendup of corny melodramas from Hollywood’s heyday.
Final performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Meanwhile, Oyster Mill Playhouse in East Pennsboro Township is putting the finishing touches on a production of “The Haunting of Hill House,” based on Shirley Jackson’s gothic horror novel from 1959.
Written long before the birth of today’s burgeoning cottage industry known as paranormal “reality” TV, Jackson told a vivid tale of an isolated mansion that some believe to be haunted.
The caretakers, for example, refuse to stay in the house at night, but a supernatural investigator and three other people plan to take up temporary residence in order to investigate the truth about the legends surrounding the house.
As it turns out, that falls into the “be careful what you wish for” category, as unseen noises, strange writings and other unexplained events begin to plague the visitors.
Oyster Mill’s production opens Sept. 21 and runs through Oct. 7 at the community theater.