Lilac City Performing Arts makes debut with ‘Carrie: The Musical’

By Kate Daniel, Eagle Life Editor

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Left to right: Paden Vance, Remington Klein, Marlee Andrews, and Dominick Betts rehearse for "Carrie: The Musical," which ran Oct. 23-24 at the Bing Crosby Theatre in downtown Spokane.

Left to right: Paden Vance, Remington Klein, Marlee Andrews, and Dominick Betts rehearse for “Carrie: The Musical,” which ran Oct. 23-24 at the Bing Crosby Theatre in downtown Spokane.

Carrie White first hit the scene in 1974 adorned with the classic Stephen King accoutrement: pig’s blood and the scars of social injustice. This month she’s making a comeback in Lilac City Performing Arts Center’s debut production, “Carrie: The Musical.”

White’s story was originally adapted for theater in 1976 when Brian De Palma directed the famous horror flick of the same name. In 1988, the story was adapted for stage in the first production of “Carrie: The Musical” on Broadway. The show was a flop, and “Carrie: The Musical” was very rarely seen again until 2012 when it was revised and adapted in an Off-Broadway revival.

The musical revival features 14 actors and a band of seven musicians.

Lilac City Performing Arts is a nonprofit startup company developed by EWU alumnus Justin Schlabach, director and artistic director of “Carrie: The Musical.” After graduating, Schlabach said he and two friends discussed producing a run of the play after Schlabach listened to the soundtrack of the adaptation and fell in love with it.

The trio quickly determined that their endeavor should not stop with one production, and thus Lilac City Performing Arts was born. In order to make “Carrie: The Musical” happen, Schlabach utilized his creativity and the help of many friends and community members in order to obtain essentials such as rehearsal space and money to purchase the rights to the play, costumes and set materials and rental of The Bing Crosby Theatre.

Marlee Andrews, a senior at EWU, will star as Carrie White.

In middle school, Andrews said she read the Stephen King novel and, having been bullied herself, empathized to some extent with White’s predicament, sans telekinetic powers. Andrews said that when Schlabach informed her about auditions for “Carrie: The Musical,” she knew she needed to get involved.

Andrews and Schlabach each said that the revised musical version of the story invites audiences to take a deeper look into the characters’ worlds. They are able to sympathize with White as she undergoes the turmoil of being bullied, feeling for once [accepted] and ultimately being betrayed. Audience members witness more than pig’s blood and gruesome murders. They see the tragic fall of White’s character after hope has been wrested from her grasp.

According to Schlabach, the same can be said of Margaret White, Carrie White’s mother. He said that Margaret White is very scary, the archetypal crazy mother and extreme religious fundamentalist who terrorizes her daughter, at one point going so far as to throw her into a prayer closet. In the musical, audiences are able to see Margaret White’s reasoning: she was raped at her own prom and wishes to protect her daughter from similar horrors.

Schlabach said that he hopes people will consider the reasons bullying occurs. He said that he will invite the audience to ask this and other questions via the Lilac City Performing Arts Facebook page.

“I took a lot of personal inspiration in terms of my experience with bullying,” Schlabach said. “I was excommunicated when I was 18. And then also from the stories that I’ve heard from other people in terms of bullying.”

Davis Hill, who graduated from EWU in 2013 with a Bachelor of Music in music composition, is serving as musical director for the production. Hill said that he enjoys the theater but has not been directly involved with any plays since high school; this will be his first musical.

“‘Carrie: The Musical’ features a seven-piece pop-rock band: two keyboards, two guitars, bass, drum set and cello,” Hill said. “The music alternates between upbeat pop-rock ensemble numbers and more melodic, introspective pieces. The music is exciting and very approachable for those who know nothing about the Stephen King novel or [1976] movie.”

He said that during the production of “Carrie,” the cast and crew have established a very open, collaborative environment.

“It has a very DIY, do it yourself, kind of aspect. I — this is somewhat tangential — but I kind of consider myself sort of a punk rocker sort of person, so it’s very much in that vein,” he said. “You know it’s very much: We’re poor; we’re young; we really want to do this.”

Initially the crew was rehearsing in the ballroom of Luxe Coffee House in Spokane, but due to a scheduling conflict at the venue, the troupe has recently been rehearsing in an abandoned Goodyear Tire building owned by Schlabach’s employer. Hill said the environment has posed some challenges for actors and musicians due to echoing and reverberation.

“I would say everyone is starting to feel like family,” said Hill. “We’re rehearsing in this derelict car garage where it’s cold and we’re freezing and the heater turns on and we can’t hear anything. But we have it so we can, you know, not freeze to death. There isn’t a bathroom, there isn’t running water. We’re just all dealing with it so it’s a very transformative kind of environment.”

The show has undergone some major musical changes from 1988 to the 2012 revised adaptation — including the removal of five or six songs — though Hill clarified that changes by Lilac City Performing Arts have been purely functional.

Schlabach agreed that from 1988 to 2012, the musical changed from simply being a “horror play” to being a vehicle of social commentary.

According to Hill, the show is not only about bullying but about issues endemic to high school which are negative and which foster bullying behavior, specifically, negative influences from popular culture reinforcing the act of putting others down and the idea that it is essential to run with the “cool” kids.

Hill said that the songs explore the pathos and confusion of being in high school, with lyrics expressing the desire to fit in and be popular or suffer the shame of being unmemorable.

“It’s not only, I think, a really great play. But it’s young people going out and doing something that they think is important in spite of all of the obstacles, and that’s really kind of what the play is about too,” said Hill.

He continued by saying that it is important to realize that the production is a result of motivated individuals banning together outside the realm of corporate influence and without the motivation of financial gain or fame-seeking.

“This is real,” he said. “This is a show that we care about and we’re doing it the way we want to do it.”

Hill said that he and the rest of the cast and crew hope that “Carrie” will be the beginning of a relationship with the Spokane community. He said that he hopes this relationship will not only be about the issues brought to light via the Lilac City Performing Arts programming, but about the theater’s place as a center for independent art.

“We aren’t beholden to anyone. We’re just doing it, and I think that’s — succeed or fail — that’s the most important thing and that’s what makes it worthwhile.”

“Carrie: The Musical” will be on stage at the Bing Crosby Theatre in Spokane Oct. 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at Ticketswest.com or at the door.

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