TISCH MILLS, Wis. (WFRV) – Scary movies are one thing.
The same scary story done live as a musical is another thing.
All that done by a committed cast in a small theater reaches another level. Everything is up close, bristling with immediacy.
It’s quite an experience in a full house.
That’s what’s happening with The Forst Inn Arts Collective/Scare USA Haunted Attractions production of “Carrie: The Musical” for eight more performances at its crossroads theater surrounded by farmland.
On opening night Friday, a bit of behind-the-scenes theater reality was taking place in the adjoining pub. The production’s stage director, choreographer, etc. was tending bar. His work on stage was done, and now it was time to take care of other matters to keep the theater running.
Kevin James Sievert is a performer locally and professionally in Milwaukee and Chicago. The Forst Inn is his home turf. Members of the “Carrie” cast likely have seen what he’s done there at the level he can do it, so they seem to put forth in a robust performance in a story with a lot of meaning – and a big scary sequence.
The story by scare-maker author Stephen King is about acceptance, with lack thereof being the powering force for everything building to all heck breaking loose.
Carrie White, a wallflower, is picked on by her high-school classmates. None too supportive is her mother, an around-the-bend religious fanatic who sees evil at every turn.
Igniting the trouble: Carrie’s momentous moment – her first period – takes place in front of girls who don’t like her in the first place, and they cruelly, mercilessly tease her. That Carrie’s mother has (wondrously) not prepared her for the event adds to the harm.
Soon, Carrie develops kinetic powers to move furniture, and much more dynamic stuff. Ask Stephen King how that can happen.
Say “Carrie,” and the first thought may be “horror.” That’s present, but the musical also is about a search for understanding. Kevin James Sievert’s direction leads the players to look into their characters and depict what makes them tick.
The story is told as a flashback. Sue (Tessa Komorowski Jindra) is being grilled by unseen authorities about what happened on prom night. That scenario eventually is played out to a disastrous conclusion.
First, Sue tells about what happened in the girls’ shower room – Carrie’s nightmare treatment. That leads to visitation of meanness, particularly in the forceful Chris (Rachel Ziolkowski) and delinquent with a capital “D” boyfriend, Bill Nolan (Gavin J. Annette).
There’s fire in each of these player’s performance.
Throughout, much torque exists between Carrie (Ariel Ducat) and her mother (Erin LaFond). The mother thumps the Bible so hard that tremors invade Carrie’s life. The extremes make for high drama for the skills of Ariel Ducat and Erin LaFond.
Early on, Erin LaFond’s eruptive depiction of the mother’s crazed, rigid and violent fanaticism in lording over Carrie is akin to poking one’s finger into a light socket – ELECTRIC. It’s a great scene.
Ariel Ducat enters the being of soul wounded by so much – her steps minced, her head bowed, her appearance frumpy gray – and stokes dramatic power from that. Her climactic scene certainly is a thriller. It’s all the more effective than a movie because of the immediacy of being live and in flesh and blood (plenty of it).
There are moments of beauty. Sue’s nice-guy boyfriend, Tommy (Sam Oswald), provides such a window in the song about a poem, “Dreamer in Disguise,” and the kindness in the role.
This and that:
+ Eleven of the cast members portray students at Chamberlain High School. Those students are gnarly adolescents, mostly. The players throw themselves into their roles in song, dance and plenty of character-making.
+ Stephen King’s novel came out in 1974. This production has a tad of an update. One of the high school girls, Norma (Shannon Paige), is constantly on her cell phone.
+ For this class, the teachers (portrayed by Stephanie Miller and Thomas Moore), might well have used a whip and a chair to manage some control. Bill Nolan (Gavin J. Annette) especially is off the rails in his sixth year of anarchy in high school.
+ Songs range from kinetic (“In,” “A Night We’ll Never Forget”) to searching (“Why Not Me?”) to tender (“Dreamer in Disguise”).
+ The set is a depiction of an aura rather than reality, except for a school-like doorway at the rear. Overall, the look is dismally haunty-housey creepy.
Running time: Two hours, 16 minutes
Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15; 2 p.m. Oct. 16; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 21-22; 6 p.m. Oct. 23; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28-29; and (sold out) Oct. 30
Creative: From the Stephen King novel: book – Lawrence D. Cohen; lyrics – Dean Pitchford; music – Michael Gore; stage direction, tech and choreography – Kevin James Sievert; costumes – Em Schaller; scenic painting – Lisa Heili; practical effects – Gavin J. Annette; fight and intimacy director – Greg Pragel; stage management – Carrie Todd Counihan, Jeff LaFond; running crew – Mackenzie Thompsen; fight captain, photography – Tessa Komorowski Jindra; house management – Shannon Paige
Billy Nolan – Gavin J. Annette
Carrie White – Ariel Ducat
Stokes – Phillip Jindra
Sue Snell – Tessa Komorowski Jindra
Margaret White – Erin LaFond
Miss Gardner – Stephanie Miller
Mr. Stephens – Thomas Moore
George – Karter Mueller
Tommy Ross – Sam Oswald
Norma – Shannon Paige
Helen – Brittieny Simmer
Freddy – Sean Stalvey
Chris Hargensen – Rachel Ziolkowski
Musical selections (recorded soundtrack)
“In” – Ensemble
“Carrie” – Carrie White
“Open Your Heart” – Reverend Bliss, Margaret, Carrie, Choir
“And Eve Was Weak” – Margaret, Carrie
“The World According to Chris” – Chris, Billy, Sue, Tommy, Kids
“Evening Prayers” – Carrie, Margaret
“Dreamer in Disguise” – Tommy
“Once You See” – Sue
“Unsuspecting Hearts” – Miss Gardner, Carrie
“Do Me a Favor” – Sue, Chris, Tommy, Billy, Kids
“I Remember How Those Boys Could Dance” – Carrie, Margaret
“A Night We’ll Never Forget” – Carrie, Chris, Billy, Sue, Ensemble
“You Shine” – Tommy, Sue
“Why Not Me?” – Carrie, Kids
“Stay Here Instead” – Margaret, Carrie
“When There’s No One” – Margaret
“Prom Arrival” – Ensemble
“Unsuspecting Hearts” (Reprise) – Carrie, Miss Gardner
“Dreamer in Disguise” (Reprise) — Tommy, Carrie, Ensemble
“Prom Climax” – Chris, Billy, Carrie, Tommy, Ensemble
“Alma Mater” – Ensemble
“The Destruction” – Carrie, Ensemble
“Carrie” (Reprise) – Margaret
“Epilogue” – Sue, Ensemble
NEXT: “Barefoot in the Park” by Neil Simon, Nov. 11-13, 18-20.
THE VENUE: The historic Forst Inn is located at the corner of Kewaunee County roads B and BB in Tisch Mills. The building dates to 1868, and it has led assorted lives over the years. For a notable period – 1990 into the 2000s – the place was popular for productions of Little Sandwich Theatre, which Manitowoc attorney Ron Kaminski (deceased 2018) nurtured with a caring hand as artistic director/performer/do-all for a wide array of productions. The present venture is of that spirit. The stage is wide and narrow. The space is intimate. Seating is at small tables on two levels in a slight arc in front of the slightly raised stage. To the audience’s rear is the stage director’s space, with light and sound controls. The space is essentially a black box in theater style in the front – with additions: two chandeliers above the audience, a street lamp the seating area and the ambiance of 1920s style elements to the rear in a service area. A seating/serving area is in the middle of the building, along with a ticketing counter. The bar area out front includes the bar, table seating, more 1920s ambiance and a passage to an art gallery (rotating artists) that is now part of the offerings of The Forst Inn Arts Collective overseen by Michael Sheeks, who also teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus in Manitowoc.