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Tuesday, November 20 , 2018, 10:54 pm | Fair 50º


Out of the Box Theatre Bringing ‘Carrie the Musical’ to Center Stage

With a curriculum vitae that includes Reefer Madness, Spring Awakening and Next to Normal, Out of the Box Theatre Co. is not only a local up-and-coming theater company with an edge, but it was just voted a finalist for Best Theater Company in the Santa Barbara Independent’s Best Of issue.

Artistic director Samantha Eve took a few moments from her busy day to discuss the company's new production, Carrie the Musical, opening Thursday at Center Stage Theater in Santa Barbara.

Justine Sutton: First of all, how is it going with Out of the Box? This is your third year, right?

Samantha Eve: This is our third year, but it's the start of our fourth season of productions. Things are going well! As any theater company can attest to, there are struggles to deal with, but we're pretty persistent people. We believe that there's a need for what we're doing — providing performance opportunities to local actors and introducing the community to off-beat, new musical theater — and we're really grateful to have made it into our fourth season and for the support of the community that has helped us do it.

Honestly, when we started with Reefer Madness in 2010, I had no idea that the company would expand to what it is now. It's still surprising to me; we're four seasons in and still producing shows. A good surprise, mind you!

JS: For those audience members who are familiar with the movie version of Carrie, or perhaps the original novel by Stephen King, how does your production differ?

SE: The playwright of this musical is actually the same person who adapted the novel to the original film, Lawrence D. Cohen. It bears a striking resemblance to the original film, particularly in the phrasing of some of the more well-known dialogue, but still manages to have a story of its own. Anytime you see a stage production, it's going to differ from the feeling of being in a movie theater. We've tried to make use of the intimacy of Center Stage Theater in order to make it a very relatable, honest, horrifying story.

JS: What have been your main challenges in staging this?

SE: Absolutely the special effects. There are some small acts of levitation, not to mention the general expectations for the prom scene that we have really had to think about in terms of what we can accomplish in a black box theater. Syncing the sound effects and projections to the music comes in a close second.

JS: How is this production different than others you've done?

SE: Unlike some of the shows we've taken on in the past, Carrie the Musical has a pretty infamous history. It opened on Broadway in 1988 after a trial run by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, and closed after a total of five performances. The show itself cost millions of dollars, and the newspapers leaped on it — making it one of the first Broadway shows to not only flop, but flop in a spectacular media frenzy.

Actors who were involved in that original production have described the opening night as receiving both boos and standing ovations with loud applause, which I think was a sign that despite its problems, there were moments in that production of excellent potential.

Just last year, the creative team took it upon themselves to rescue Carrie and give it a new life. They reworked the script, cut the cast size down, cut old songs and added new ones, and revived the show off-Broadway. Unlike our other show that had its inspiration in a horror film, Evil Dead, this is not a campy, comedic retelling of the film or novel. It's a story about a teenage girl who is bullied horribly at school and is eventually pushed past her breaking point.

JS: How is it similar to your past productions. What is the common thread between them?

SE: Like in Spring Awakening, our cast for this production is on the younger end of the spectrum. We have a few adults taking on adult roles, particularly Deborah Bertling as Margaret White, but our cast of teenagers has a wide range with a couple of actors as young as 16. Julia Kupiec, our wonderful Carrie, is a junior at Santa Barbara High School. It's a heavy show for young actors, but they've been handling the material amazingly.

Out of the Box Theatre Company aims to produce lesser-known, less-often-staged shows here in Santa Barbara, and in that vein, we are actually the Southern California premiere of Carrie the Musical.

JS: What's next for Out of the Box?

SE: Our musical in the spring will be Bonnie & Clyde, which I'm very excited for. That will be April 3-12, 2014. Besides that, we have our usual season of workshops that offer training in various theater skills, beginning with unarmed stage combat with Matt Tavianini in December.

Click here for tickets and information for Carrie the Musical. Click here for more information on upcoming concerts, shows and workshops.

— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.

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