'Carrie' — Minus the Songs — To Air on NBC-TV November 4; Angela Bettis Stars

News   'Carrie' — Minus the Songs — To Air on NBC-TV November 4; Angela Bettis Stars

L: New York thesps Angela Bettis and Patricia Clarkson in the NBC TV Movie "Carrie"; R: Bettis as Carrie at the prom

Photo by Paul Michaud/NBC

Ever since the short-lived Broadway musical Carrie — featuring the thrilling performances of dual belters Betty Buckley and Linzi Hateley — the Stephen King tale has been of interest to many theatregoers. NBC will offer a new version of the classic horror story on Monday, Nov. 4.

The new three-hour TV film will not be the musical version, but it does cast theatre actress Angela Bettis, who has appeared on Broadway in The Crucible and Arcadia, in the title role. The new adaptation of King's novel features several scenes that were not part of the original film as well as state-of-the-art digital effects. Others in the cast of the story of a shunned teenaged girl who discovers she has telekinetic powers include Emmy winner Patricia Clarkson as Carrie's religious mother Margaret, Emilie de Ravin as Christine "Chris" Hargensen, Rena Sofer as Miss Rita Desjarden, Jasmine Guy as Ruby Moore, David Keith as Detective John Mulcahey, Jesse Cadotte as Billy Nolan, Kandyse McClure as Sue Snell and Tobias Mehler as Tommy Ross. David Carson directs the movie, which features a script by Bryan Fuller. Fuller executive produced this version of "Carrie" along with Mark Stern, Pen Densham & John Watson, partners in Trilogy Entertainment Group. David Livingston is the producer.

The original 1976 Brian DePalma film of "Carrie" starred Sissy Spacek as Carrie with Piper Laurie as her fanatical mother Margaret. Both Spacek and Laurie were nominated for Academy Awards for their performances. The Broadway musical opened at the Virginia Theatre on May 12, 1988. Though Buckley — who also appeared as Miss Collins in the film — and Hateley were lauded for their work, the musical received negative reviews and closed after 5 performances and 16 previews.

"Carrie" will air on NBC stations around the country on Monday, Nov. 4 from 8 to 11 PM ET. Check local listings.

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In other "Carrie" news, the Off Broadway company Theatre Couture is readying a new adaptation of the Stephen King horror novel. If all goes well, Off-Broadway will see a commercial staging starring drag performer Sherry Vine in spring or fall of 2003.

The Theatre Couture version, written by Erik Jackson, will not be a musical, although it will have "some musical elements."

"It will definitely be very black comedy," Jackson told Playbill On-Line. "But that's inherent in the novel. It's a very serious take on the pressures and pain of adolescence. But 'Carrie' is also so well known in our culture; we all know the story. Everybody feels it's their story. Because of that collective unconscious, there's a way to have fun with the story. There will be comedy and camp, and some horror, and maybe a little blood.

"In the Broadway musical, they spattered that actress with a little stage blood. We'll have much more. With our version, you may want to bring a raincoat."

Jackson said the company has already talked to some producers, who want to open the show in a commercial Off-Broadway house. In the past, Theatre Couture projects—such as Doll and the 1997 Off-Broadway transfer Tell Tale—have begun at grungy, nonprofit, Off-Off Broadway venues, such as P.S. 122.

Carrie already has its creative team in place. Josh Rosenzweig will direct. Kevin Adams (Hedda Gabler) will provide lighting and scenery. David Dalrymple, the man responsible for the breakaway suit pop tart Britney Spears wore on the MTV Awards, will design the costumes. Basil Twist, the award-winning puppeteer who created the long-running underwater puppet show, Symphonie Fantastique, will do the telekinesis-related special effects. And Sherry Vine will star as either the woebegone Carrie or her Christian zealot mother.

Somewhat incredibly, Jackson's first wish was to restage the Broadway musical. However, he found the creative team less than excited about the idea. "We talked to them at one point," said Jackson. "We had a meeting. But they are interested in having that production vindicated. They don't want someone to make fun of it. We wanted to celebrate it, but also lampoon it."

Thus rejected, Jackson, taking a different tack, decided to adapt King's novel from scratch. He began by writing the author's lawyer. "We got an immediate response back," he recalled. "He wrote, 'Are you out of your mind?' But, at the bottom of the letter, I noticed the lawyer had cc'd Stephen King."

Rebuffed a second time, Jackson was ready to abandon "Carrie." "I had given up," he said. "I was angry that they hadn't read my letter more closely. I was done." Then two weeks after the initial correspondence, Jackson received a second letter from King's lawyer, saying "King had asked him to pursue the matter."

Jackson quickly pounded out an exuberant six-page letter to King, explaining why he wanted to adapt "Carrie" and the approach the theatre company would take to the material, mailing it off with a stash of Theatre Couture clippings. Finally, King's lawyer replied, granting the troupe the rights to the book. "I just flipped," said Jackson.

The playwright now has to produce a first draft in the next six months and hope for the best. "[King] must see that this will be an interesting way to see his work," Jackson said.

—By Andrew Gans
and Robert Simonson