Carrie: the Musical director Courtney Oliver thinks she knows why some critics have described earlier productions of the Stephen King-inspired musical as being anticlimactic. It's the blood.
"When people think of Carrie, that's what they think of," Oliver says. "They think of Sissy Spacek at the prom. They think of the big eyes. Or they think of the shower scene. Either way, it's a bloody Carrie." There are good reasons why theaters tend to suggest blood with lighting and other effects. Dumping a bucket of stage blood means somebody has to get it off the set and out of the costumes. Somebody has to clean wigs and reset them. And then there's the question of wireless microphones that are seldom waterproof. Fake blood is a real mess.
"I can't promise," Oliver says, acknowledging that things may not go her way. "But we're going to dump blood on Carrie. It's going to splatter. If it works out, we'll need to warn the audience in the first two or three rows that they might be in a splatter zone."
Oliver was 6 years old when her mom read King's novel about teenage bullies, broken families, and a girl with special powers. She was forbidden to read the book, but her mom shared bits and pieces. "She really enjoyed telling me the bedtime story about people who were mean to this girl, and how the girl would retaliate by moving things with her mind." A few years later Oliver snuck the book out of her house and read it cover to cover. She's read every novel King's written since and can quote chapter and verse.
"Carrie's opening line is one of my favorites," Oliver says. "'Deep down we all knew this would happen, down in the parts of our hearts where savage things grow.' It's all about how much you can take."
Oliver hopes to highlight Carrie's similarities to the Cinderella story, and thinks University of Memphis grad Maggie Robinson has what it takes to turn lyrics about distant thunder into a Disney princess song. "Maggie's got this beautiful smile and these dimples," Oliver says. "It's hard not to love her. Because of that we have a tragedy."