Review by Markus Hamence – Friday 3 November 2023 performance
Hills Musical Company (HMC) are celebrating 50 years and what a year they have had. They served up ‘Kiss Me Kate’ earlier this year which was lapped up by Adelaide’s appreciative audiences. This offering seems set to match the success and wind up the year nicely for them. Carrie the Musical has commenced it’s run at Stirling Community Theatre.
If you want top notch theatre look no further than a production of HMC. The quality that is reflected in the talent, experience and knowledge of the cast and crew IS professional and national standard. This is evident again in this piece of work.
Never more apt a play, with bullying in schools at a high and mental health being addressed in an array of avenues, this is timely (perhaps why it was the chosen one)… ‘Carrie White is a misfit. At school, she’s an outcast who’s bullied by the popular crowd, and virtually invisible to everyone else. At home, she’s at the mercy of her loving but cruelly over-protective mother. However Carrie’s just discovered she’s got a special power, and if pushed too far, she’s not afraid to use it…’
Director, Ben Stefanoff, knows theatre. He knows what works AND he knows what the audience wants. He has delightfully brought together a sharp and slick musical with very tidy story-telling that has you NOT requiring to have watched the Stephen King’s Carrie in the movie format (with the fabulous Sissy Spacek) prior to understand what is going on up on the boards. It’s tight and punchy, Ben obviously had a vision for what he wanted to achieve with the cast and this story and, in my view, he has executed with a very pleasing and brilliant outcome that would entertain a diverse audience.
The troupe of actors are highly efficient in their job and craft. Megan Davidson leads playing Carrie White. We saw Megan in the afore-mentioned ‘Kiss Me Kate’ and seeing her now showcases her talented and her ability to take on varied roles with her skilled acting chops. Definitely not a easy role as the character has many slips and slopes with a lot of depth. Megan has tackled and got to the core of ‘Carrie’ and her ‘demons’ and comes out shining with angst, joy at times, pain and fury. Her character’s desire to be loved and be herself is brought to life. Wonderful work.
Oh my goodness, the mother from hell (or heaven), Margaret White, is deliciously played with intensity by Natasha Scholey. Her over bearing-control over her daughter is only matched by the fact she only wants the best for her child. But her ‘over-protecting ways’ makes this a character that is pure gold on stage. Margaret beautiful voice is powerful and it is through the tortured pain and anguish in some songs you realise how brilliant this actor is. Ached for her every moment she had her moment on stage.
The entire cast are flawless and each meticulously selected it would seems to fit an actor to their strengths and abilities. Ruby Pinkerton playing the guilt-ridden Sue Snell opens as the story stars and sets the tone with a steely assurance of comfortability in what she is doing. The tone was set and what followed was a role call great characters played by even better confident actors, Simon Barnett as Tommy, Sarah Whalen as the mean girl and revenge driven Chris, Brad Tucker as Billy her puppy dog side-kick Billy, Kristen Stefanoff (with a killer set of pipes) as the strong but caring Miss Gardner and Michael Butler as Mr Stephens. This bunch are well-versed in their respective roles and have incredible watchability AND with killer singer voices. The supportive cast are equally impressive, no one looked lost on stage in the background (something I strangely look for??). Terrific stuff!
Bravo to the orchestra, conducted by Dylan Rufus. A highly efficient ensemble of musical talents that skill-fully whisk their way through uptempo upbeat bouncy numbers through to beautiful souring slow ballads.
Equally, the choreography needs mention. It’s tight and punchy and bang on. While not all the actors are trained dancers, each really own the moves required to pull off the group numbers and produce something of a high standard. Choreographer Ashleigh Rathjen achieved great movement that filled the stage and gave us great visual impact while staying in the scope of the story.
To wrap up, this is very, very good theatre. I thoroughly enjoyed this production and as the song goes… ‘Night We’ll Never Forget’. If you live in the hills area go and support your locals. If you live in the city it’s most certainly worth the little drive up the freeway. Wonderful, a must, go and see-it.
Carrie the Musical runs until 18 November 2023 at Stirling Community Theatre