Stephen King’s Carrie is one of the first novels I ever read. It’s sold over four million copies, was the basis of an Academy Award-winning film and four remakes, and is one of the most banned books in United States schools. The novel’s 17-year-old protagonist, Carrie White, is tormented by classmates and her hyper-religous mother. When she’s pushed too far, she goes ballistic and unleashes supernatural powers that turns her high school prom into a blood bath.
Ideal source material for a musical, right?
I was stunned to learn that CARRIE The Killer Musical Experience even existed, playing at the historic Los Angeles Theatre. Do you want another shocker? Carrie is being played, for the first time ever, by an African American. I had to ask actress Tiana Okoye what the horror legend has been like.
“Playing Carrie is different than any part I’ve every played,” Okoye told me. “To be honest, I never dreamed I would be considered for the role, nor did I believe I could do it! I had to give myself a pep talk after the first day of rehearsal and just rise to the challenge I was given.”
“The character’s physical exhaustion added with the heavy emotion, and singing on top of that is quite the combination,” Okoye continued. “All things combined really fuel me during performances. Carrie is exhausted from being misunderstood and pushed around, she is finding her power and it is a beautiful thing to explore every night.”
Audience are sharing in that “beauty.” The play’s staging is completely immersive, taking the musical off the stage and putting the audience right in the middle of the action, back in the rooms and hallways of high school and, of course, with a prime seat at the prom.
As the original film was one of the scariest I saw as a kid, I asked Okoye how familiar she was with Carrie’s source material.
“I had seen the film years ago,” she shared, “and watched videos of the off Broadway production, but that was it. I only listened to the soundtrack two years ago prior to my first audition, which was a roller coaster that really tested me! I suppose the beautiful melodies stuck with me at callbacks — thank God!”
“Beautiful melodies”? In a show about a telekinetic teen who decimates her high school?? This I have GOT to see — especially since the show’s songs were written by Academy Award winners Michael Gore (Fame) and Dean Pitchford (Fame, Footloose).
With a production like this one, and with the reviews that Okoye is receiving, I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be seeing more of the actress. I asked the ingenue what role would be a “dream” one for her, and who her acting idols were.
“With regard to actors,” Okoye continued, “I’m a huge fan of Meryl Streep, Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Amy Pohler and Eddie Redmayne. But my all-time acting idol would be Viola Davis, hands down. She is everything I want to be.”
Tiana Okoye, you’re well on your way.
Carrie The Killer Musical Experience runs through Sunday, November 15. Tiana Okoye performs the role at the Sunday matinee. Tickets are available at ExperienceCarrie.com or by calling 1-888-596-1027.