Detroit High School Won’t Back Down On Terrible Decision To Allow ‘Carrie: The Musical’ As Spring Play

Carrie 1976Farmington North High School, outside of Detroit has parents foaming at the mouth with rage after they announced that this year’s spring theatrical production would be “Carrie: The Musical,” and for once I’m taking the outraged parent’s side. I get that some of the themes displayed in “Carrie” resonate with teenagers.The movie and subsequent musical delve into things like bullying, isolation and dealing with consequences, all of which are important subjects  But in a post-Columbine and Sandy Hook world, I think any production that ends in a mass slaughter is an unwise choice for school kids to perform. How is this even a discussion?

School administrators aren’t backing down from their decision. They’re defending the production, calling it “topical” because it teaches an important lesson about bullying. In case you’re unfamiliar, “Carrie” is based on a Stephen King novel of the same name, about a shy, bullied teenage girl who uses telekinetic powers to get revenge on her tormentors. So…what exactly is the lesson here? If you bully someone, they might use their amazing mind-powers to decimate you and your entire class? After hearing about the planned production, one parent, Julie Devine told the Detroit Free Press:

“When I heard [the upcoming production] was a musical version of ‘Carrie,’ I was dumbstruck. I thought, ‘How arrogant, how insensitive and how reckless to put on a show that ends with a mass murder in a high school gym.’ ”

Joe Greene, the principal at Farmington North, says that he hopes the play with lead the audience to think about the events of the story “in light of how we treat others.” He went on to say:

“The musical ‘Carrie’ provides us a fantastical lens through which to examine and spur thought about the origin and impact of bullying, the impact of mental illness, and the choices we make about how we treat each other.”

Of course, Greene is conveniently leaving out the fact that Carrie incites a Columbine-level MASS MURDER at the end of the film/play. To be fair, Superintendent Susan Zuralec noted that there will be “appropriate editing” done to the script, but how much editing can they do before the entire meaning is lost? Do they take out the slaughter at the end? What about the infamous period scene? The entire point of the story is “teenage psychic kills bullies,” not “teenage psychic reasons with bullies and then sings a jaunty tune.” I guess we’ll have to wait and see what they do with it, but I do NOT foresee this ending well.

(Photo: Amazon.com)

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    • brebay

      I think it’s awesome as hell. We did The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas back in 1991 at my high school, but that’s when the American Taliban was still in the minority. If I have to sit through one more production of Grease or Bye Bye Birdie, I’ll scream. I would TOTALLY go see Carrie! As for the Columbine analogy, I have to laugh. Carrie’s actions could never occur in real life.

      • Bethany Ramos

        I went to a college production of Texas Chainsaw Massacre the Musical, and it was amazing!!

      • Bunny Lucia

        That sounds so freaking rad. Holy cow, how did that even work?

      • Bethany Ramos

        It was so, so rad. From what I remember, the killing wasn’t too gory. I think they wrote it themselves, and I was like, they need to put it on Broadway! ;)

      • Crusty Socks

        ♫♪♪ Just pull the cooooord, to start the chaaaaaainsaw
        ♫♪♪ Only theeeeen, can you cut the braaaaaains off

        ♫♪♪ The leather face… it’s a disgrace…but just in case… here take the mace!

      • Bethany Ramos

        Hahaha

      • Aldonza

        Dude. I would seriously fly somewhere to see that. That is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life.

      • Momma425

        Exactly what I was going to say about the Columbine/Sandy Hook thing. Carrie is completely different. It isn’t real.

        It isn’t as though the entire school is required to go to the play. I can understand parents being upset, or students who don’t enjoy horror genre being upset, if the school had a required assembly and forced all students to watch. But the play-while being at school- is not a requirement for offended parents/students to attend.

      • Smishsmash

        Yeah, it sounds like the people putting the production on are well aware of the issues it raises and hoping for good discussions. These are high school students, not little kids, they should be capable of discussing difficult subjects without being coddled. Our culture these days seems to be so concerned about keeping teens from anything controversial or disturbing and as a result, we seem to be raising kids who aren’t able to think critically when critical thinking is the skill that high school is supposed to be there to teach.

        My school did lysistrata and man, you should have seen the pearl gripping that happened over how that would make us all sluts.

      • momjones

        Retired English teacher nerd here…I am so impressed that your high school did “Lysistrata” – Just thinking about them reciting the oath to withhold sex from the men…and envisioning the scene between the old and men and the old women… and imagining the costumes (!) on a high school stage makes me smile!

      • CMJ

        AND, they have a musical now called “Lysistrata Jones.”

      • Andrea

        Agreed, I think it’s great.

      • Karen Milton

        I’d go see it in a heartbeat, if only to see how they managed to turn that fuckery into a musical. Macabre curiosity!

    • brebay

      On a side note, thank you for using a pic of the original and not the crappy remake!

      • Kay_Sue

        I saw the original for the first time the night before we went and saw the remake. Talk about a letdown. First off, does it really even count as a remake if they basically just recycle the dialogue bit for bit? Seeing them so close together just really…it was crappy. Just crappy.

    • tk88

      …There’s a musical version of Carrie?

    • Katherine Handcock

      Hmm, mixed feelings about this one…while I see your point, I also feel like “Carrie” is so fantastical because of the psychic element. I remember in my children’s literature class learning that many kids prefer the non-Disney versions of fairytales, specifically BECAUSE they’re violent, bloody, and terrifying: kids know that violent, bloody, terrifying things exist, but a fairytale is a safe was to explore that. Maybe “Carrie: The Musical” can be like that for teens.

      On the other hand, there are so many great musicals that were actually WRITTEN as musicals out there, why pick a strange adaptation like this? The musician in me is screaming names of awesome musicals that nobody ever sees or performs that they could have chosen instead.

    • arrow2010

      Why is Mommyish so opposed to freedom of expression? What are you trying to suppress? It’s a PLAY for god’s sake. It’s art.

      • brebay

        Ugh. I’m all for this play going on, but your premise is flawed, per usual. Lots of things qualify as art and expression but can be kept out of schools because it’s not the proper venue. I don’t think this is a case of that, but not for the reason you give. Try to narrow your focus a bit if you’re trying to masquerade as a non-troll.

      • Lackadaisical

        Whether you agree or disagree with staging Carrie in a high school I don’t think Mommyish is opposed to freedom of expression. One of the mommyish writers, not the whole staff but one writer, is writing about what she sees as the inappropriateness of this play being staged in a school setting. She isn’t saying we should ban the play or not let our own kids go to see it, but feels that putting it on in a school is not right. Personally I don’t agree with the author on this point but I also don’t see the author trying to stifle freedom of expression and don’t see that one writer represents the whole of mommyish when the writers do not always have the same opinions as each other. Plenty of things are inappropriate in a school setting without their removal from school being a blow to freedom of expression. Few people would be comfortable with a school staging a strip show as their school production but that does not mean that those who don’t want the kids pole dancing naked to the rest of the school would ban strip joints or are fans of pearl clutching. While I think we should be careful about censoring too much in a school to appease an overly upset public that doesn’t mean that anything goes at school.

    • Alicia Kiner

      I actually think this could be really cool, especially if they are editting out mass murder. A lot can be done to imply things happen off stage. I did a few musicals in high school, and one of them include a girl changing clothes on stage (she wore a nude bodysuit under her clothes) and a sex scene. I’d go to see it, though I admit I wouldn’t take my elementary-aged kids to see it. As long as they keep it PG-13 and not R, I honestly don’t see the problem. Parents with kids in the performance should be involved, and should talk with their kids. Make sure they are handling it well.

    • http://www.ambiencechaser.com/ Elizabeth Licata

      Oh my gosh! I saw Carrie: The Musical back in 2002. Someone dug it out as a half joke at a theater I was working at. It’s possibly the worst play ever written. It would be laughably bad, except that it takes itself completely seriously. There’s no self-awareness, irony, or humor at all. It’s played completely straight, and it’s awful for it. It’s not even so bad it’s good. I think we sort of expected it to be more like Evil Dead: The Musical, which would have been cool. But it was just sort of, “The fuck is this?”

      • brebay

        Most high school musicals are sot of WTF in my experience. At least people haven’t seen this one zillion times! I couldn’t find it anywhere when I looked, I wonder where on earth the teacher even found it.

      • CMJ

        They just recently released the rights to a
        revival version and it is MUCH better than the older one…but I’ve known a lot of innovative theatre companies that have done it recently.

        Nerd alert time: I’m from Metro Detroit and they have a pretty innovative theatre scene…which includes the high schools. The local high schools are known to do some amazing, and not typical, musicals. The high school I went was the first high school in the country to be offered the rights to Into the Woods way back when.

    • K.

      I can’t envision a “Carrie” musical myself, BUT what I DO think is cool about the idea is that a lot of leading roles are played by girls: protagonist, antagonist, mentor/confidant, etc.

      That’s a rarity among many modern musicals–in most, the major roles for men outnumber those for women, and the major roles that ARE available for women are usually in a romantic-object sort of capacity.

      • brebay

        Very true, which is especially difficult in high schools, where there are far more girls vying for roles. I played one of the brothers in Joseph…Dreamcoat in more than one production as a kid…didn’t love it.

    • SarahJesness

      I don’t see what’s wrong with high schoolers performing this musical. They’re not little kids. They don’t need to be coddled or have serious issues hidden from them. They’re going to enter the adult world soon, whether that means work or college or whatever. Sure, Carrie can be viewed as something of a Space Whale Aesop, (assuming that Stephen King was attempting to make an anti-bullying aesop in the first place) but just because it’s not some My Little Pony moralistic style of story where they all state what they learned at the end, doesn’t mean it’s inappropriate for high schoolers.

    • Crusty Socks

      Should have gone with Showgirls

      • CMJ

        They are actually doing a Showgirls musical somewhere.

      • Crusty Socks

        M’ish fieldtrip!!!

    • Jenny

      Gotta agree with Frances on this one. There are a million choices for musicals. Pick another one. This is in poor taste in today’s high school world. No high school is going to suffer because they “DIDN’T” do Carrie. But if there is even the chance that performing this musical will stir something up in somebody to make them act out on some deranged impulses, then let’s just put this musical aside. Not worth it!

      • Karen Milton

        Give me a break. If someone goes on a homicidal rampage because they saw a high school musical based on a well-known story that was written close to 40 years ago, they were going to do it anyway. If you interviewed every single inmate currently in prison I can guarantee that exactly zero percent would give ‘high school play’ as the reason for their criminal activities.

      • CMJ

        Yes, it might stir up the ability to magically lock everyone in the auditorium to see….Carrie: The Musical

      • AreYouForReal

        Oh for god’s sake. What if there’s a chance that the performance of this musical might stir up the thoughts of “Holy shit, bullying can really fuck with some people,” and maybe encourage a kid to stand up against bullying?

        But no no, let’s whine and moan because some shortsighted fools think it’s “in poor taste.” Y’know what else is poor taste? Romeo and fucking Juliet.

      • Lackadaisical

        A teenager (is his age specified?) ditches his latest obsessive crush (Rosaline) to seduce an even younger girl he is obssessed with (two weeks short of 14, that is in the text – “hath not seen the change of fourteen years”). He marries her in secret, kills her brother in a fight (even if the brother did just kill his best mate, yay gang violence), scarpers without her and then when she tries to escape to join him her elaborate fake suicide plot (which was pointless because had she faked death she would be dead to them so why not just run away to join him) becomes a mess resulting in their deaths and the death of another guy who loved her. Yes, Romeo and Juliet is a rather messed up supposed romance.

    • Jell

      Before the Carrie remake happened I remember thinking that if there was one film that could never be remade in a post-Columbine world it was that film. I can’t speak to the merits of the remake itself because I haven’t seen it but I was thrilled to be wrong. The power of the classics lives on.
      If the kids want to put on a musical version of a horror movie (and excellent novel) I say power to them. As others have said, it’s a fantasy, no one is going to go out on a telekinetic killing spree. And frankly the idea of children lashing out at other children has been around for a long, long time in literuature and film. I think the themes of bullying and the pain of puberty are very timely. I’m sure the school is aware of the inherent difficulty in staging such a thing and making it palatable. I think some adult-sanctioned subversion is good for kids.

      • SarahJesness

        I dunno, I would argue that Heathers would have a much harder time being remade. It’s a cult classic, whereas Carrie is a full-on classic, so the same rules don’t apply. (Carrie also has fantastic elements, making it a bit more palatable to the audience)

    • JLH1986

      I don’t get the outrage. Like most things, parents should be using this as a teaching moment. Is it realistic that a girl is going to use telekinesis to kill her classmates? No. But her frustration, anger and hurt ARE real feelings from being a dbag for no reason. And really, we give teenagers too much credit for somethings and not enough for others. I think if a parent talks to the kid and really uses it to explain “I know this seems silly but you’ve heard about Columbine, here are other schools where this has happened because people were bullied and didn’t know how to respond. Don’t bully, don’t let others bully etc. etc.” It will be your typical terrible musical. Only instead of discussing potential teen pregnancy (thank you Grease) it could be bullying.

    • CMJ

      Have you seen ever seen Carrie: the Musical? It’s not as bad as you’re describing it…at all. There is a revival version that they most likely have the rights to that is actually fairly well done and quite good subject matter for students. It doesn’t glorify violence – it puts an interesting lens on exactly what the principle describes.

      Have you seen the end of Oklahoma? With Judd? That’s pretty creepy too. (guns, attempted sexual assault) And people don’t seem to have a problem with it. I think you underestimate everyone involved in this production.

      • Lackadaisical

        Yes, Oklahoma can be a bit dark if you stop and think about it. I found 7 brides for 7 brothers to be the creepiest musical ever. Taking wives by force, romanticising Stockholm syndrome, fathers forcing their daughters to marry their abductors who they believe to be their rapists because their daughters’ honour has been supposedly damaged by a baby out of wedlock (whose conception they may not have consented to).

        While not a musical 16 – 18 year old pupils in the UK often study the wonderfully dark Duchess of Malfi and are often taken on school trips to see it (Jacobean fun and frolics involving a twin brother desperate to have sex with his unwilling sister, and every male relative of hers feeling they own her until they eventually torture and murder her and her children for trying to escape through marriage to the man she wants. Also many productions throw in a rape scene by a cardinal of his married mistress who he later murders that is implied but not stated by the text). I guess the difference is that the sixth formers aren’t putting it on as a play to perform to the 11 year olds.

    • CMJ

      You know what show has a mass slaughter that high schools have been doing for a while now? Les Miserables.

    • Paul White

      I was unaware musicals and theater had to be light fluffy happy events.

      • Jessie

        Right? Have any of these people ever seen Sweeny Todd? Or Les Miserables? Sheesh. So much coddling of kids these days. They’re high school kids, they aren’t little babies, they can handle it.

    • Jessie

      Geez, if you think “Carrie” is bad, you would have died at seeing my high school theater class’ production of “Bang Bang You’re Dead.” THAT play actually IS based on a real school shooting, and yes my class performed it in the wake of Columbine, Santana High School (which is right here in my hometown), as well as the Red Lake Massacre that happened the same year (2005). We actually had to write to our school board to convince them to allow it, because at first they denied permission. The casts (we had two casts performing on alternate nights) were a mix of upper-classmen as well as a freshman or two. My high school actually performed it again this last year, in the wake of Sandy Hook.

      Honestly, these are high school students, most likely the majority of whom are seniors. Almost adults, and certainly well old enough to deal with the themes in a story like “Carrie.” If my mixed class could handle a play about a REAL school shooting, this class and its audience can deal with a fantastical play like “Carrie.”

      • Shea

        My high school did “Bang Bang You’re Dead” too, it would have been around 2001 or 2002. It was…intense.

    • Zettai

      I’m on the school’s side here. It has a bit of fantastical elements, but it is topical and relatable, especially when it comes to high school students.

    • SA

      I don’t see anything wrong with it. It is a fantastical super-natural story with no basis in real life. I mean news crews show 24 hour footage for weeks of each school shooting that happens, it isn’t like some musical is going to put ideas in kids heads that aren’t there.

    • Rachel Sea

      It’s not like they are doing a reenactment of Colombine or Sandy Hook. Mass murders are going to happen whether or not they put on the play, why NOT use art to spark a conversation about why it happens?