The trials of high school would seem to be one of the most over-farmed fields in all of the vast territory of theatrical cultivation. After so many crops, musical and otherwise, what nutrients could possibly be left in this well-ploughed soil? And yet along comes Carrie — not the movie, or the new movie, or even the original musical, but instead the new musical, recently revised by its original team of writers and presented at Center Stage Theater in an engaging new production by Out of the Box Theatre Company. The premise remains the same — Carrie is a lonely teen whose overprotective mother has filled her head with the fire-and-brimstone visions of an unhappy fundamentalism, while her peers are, for the most part, typical teenagers preoccupied with dating, dances, and dishing dirt on those less popular. When Carrie fails to recognize the onset of puberty in the form of menstruation, most of the girls make fun of her, while only her gym teacher, Ms. Huggins (Nastassja Huggins), steps in to defend the traumatized girl. In subsequent developments, the empathetic Sue Snell (Katherine Bottoms) becomes Carrie’s sole advocate among the students, while mean girl Chris Hargensen (Taylor Courtney) spirals further and further into a devious spitefulness. The whole thing comes to a head when Sue convinces her boyfriend Tommy (Julian Comeau) that taking Carrie to the prom instead of her will alleviate the situation, rather than leading to the inevitable catastrophe.
As Carrie White, Santa Barbara High student Julia Kupiec delivers a full-bodied performance that’s subtle, dramatically powerful, and poignant. Her duets with her mother, Margaret White (Deborah Bertling), are nearly operatic in their emotional depth and complexity. Overall, the production is impressive, and the result is excellent musical theater and a new triumph for Out of the Box.