Out & About: ‘Carrie’ is powerful, riveting musical drama

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Stephen King’s “Carrie” as a musical? How can that possibly work? It works quite well, as you can see for yourself for the next two weekends at Lyric Music Theater in South Portland, where this 65-year-old community company has mounted a powerful, riveting production of King’s first published novel.

Did you forget your sweetie on Valentine’s Day? Big bad. But there are two opportunities to get out of the proverbial doghouse this weekend. First, Circus Maine has slated three performances of its Cupid’s Night Cabaret this weekend in Portland.

Also in Portland, Ron Lantz and Laura Kargul have scheduled their annual celebration of romantic music for Sunday.

‘Carrie’

Is “Carrie” the worst Broadway musical of all time? That question was quite famously posed several years ago as the title of an essay in The New Yorker, where the editors polled some experts on the subject of theatrical catastrophes.

Their answer: It’s debatable. Several experts suggested shows that were equally bad.

But what’s not debatable is the financial magnitude of the flop. The original 1988 Broadway adaptation of Stephen King’s story about a high school girl with frightening telekinetic powers cost $7 million to mount and closed after only five performances.

That’s some background. Here’s more: After a decade licking their wounds, the creators took a second look at their show and decided to rewrite the script and heavily revise the score. Adapted for a smaller, more intimate Off-Broadway theater, the new “Carrie” achieved a measure of success, and now seems destined to become something of a cult classic.

That’s Lyric Music Theater’s current show, which opened last weekend and runs two more in South Portland. With script by Lawrence D. Cohen, music by Michael Gore and lyrics by Dean Pitchford, this fine community production of “Carrie” is a riveting, compelling drama.

Director Joshua Chard has assembled a fine cast that revolves around four women. Shannon Oliver is splendid in the title role, an introverted high school student who is constantly bullied and humiliated by virtually all her classmates. Alex Jeffrey is her chief tormenter at school. At home, Laura Hurd Whited plays an unsupportive mother, a religious zealot who believes Carrie’s troubles are caused by her sins.

Carrie finds some support in school from one classmate, played by Jericah Potvin, and her boyfriend, played by Michael Jenkins.

After Carrie is humiliated at the school’s spring prom, she calls up her frightening telekinetic powers to bring a tornado of chaos, fire and destruction to the school and the whole town.

Lyric Music Theater, 176 Sawyer St. in South Portland, presents “Carrie” through Feb. 25 with 7:30 p.m. performances Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Call 799-1421.

Circus Maine

The public performance wing of the Maine Circus Academy is revamping its schedule amid a modest reorganization.

Beginning this February, Circus Maine intends to offer one weekend per month of themed performances at its facility on Thompson’s Point in Portland. Featured artists include the company’s own faculty and several visiting guests. I’ve attended two of these cabarets in the past year, finding them quite engaging and entertaining.

The opening act in this series is titled “Cupid’s Night Cabaret,” and performances are slated this Friday through Sunday. In addition to faculty, visiting artists will include a “flash juggler,” a “fluidly beautiful female hand balancer” and a “renowned audience-participation magician.”

In keeping with Circus Maine’s cabaret theme, cocktails are available during all performances and a food truck is parked at the entrance to the building.

Circus Maine co-founder Kat Finck also announced dates for the next three months: March 16-18, April 20-22, and May 18-20. Finck says that the accelerated performance schedule coincides with a beefed-up educational effort, which accepts students for a three-year professional development program.

Catch Circus Maine’s Cupid’s Night Out at 4 Thompson’s Point at 7 p.m. Feb. 16-17 and 4 p.m. Feb. 18. Call 536-0768.

Ron Lantz and Laura Kargul

It’s becoming a Portland tradition around Valentine’s Day every year: Violin virtuoso Ron Lantz and piano wiz Laura Kargul team up to play a program of Romantic music that revolves around the theme of love. This year’s program is slated for Sunday afternoon.

Lantz has been prominent on the Portland’s classical music scene for 44 years, first as the principal second violin with the Portland Symphony Orchestra and also as a founding member of the Portland String Quartet. Kargul has directed the piano studies program at the University of Southern Maine School of Music for decades and she is the perennial top draw on its Faculty Concert Series.

This year’s program is titled La Belle Epoque, the nearly five-decade period in French history that preceded World War I, a time that was characterized by the apex of Romanticism in the arts. It was a golden age of French culture, and classical music was one of many art forms that flourished.

The program will include a seldom-heard work, “Dans la montagne,” a four-movement suite for violin and piano written by Joseph Canteloube in 1906. Born in the Auvergne, a region in southern France known for its stunning mountains, meadows and forests, Canteloube collected the folk melodies of the region and restated them in the idiom of classical music.

“This gorgeous violin suite is infused with the modes and colors of folk music from the Auvergne,” says Lantz. “It is cinematic in the way it evokes the French countryside. With nature as his muse, Cantaloube paints a highly sensuous scene in the mountains, setting the stage for romantic inclinations, if not actual adventures. With its mists, streams, singing birds and calling shepherds, it’s always Valentine’s Day in the Auvergne.”

Lantz and Kargul will also play one of their signature favorites, the rarely performed Sonata for Violin and Piano by Jacques de la Presle. “This ravishing and thoroughly romantic sonata was written between 1913 and 1914, during de la Presle’s courtship of Anne-Marie Portalis, his muse, future wife and love of his life,” adds Kargul.

Catch Ron Lantz and Laura Kargul at 2 p.m. Feb. 18 at Woodford’s Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St. in Portland. Call the LARK Society at 761-1522.

Shannon Oliver plays the title role in “Carrie,” a chilling tale of a misfit high school student who is bullied to the breaking point before unleashing her frightening telekinetic powers to destroy her enemies. “Carrie” plays through Feb. 25 at Lyric Music Theater in South Portland.

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