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The Show Will Go On Despite Outcry Over 'Carrie: The Musical'

Parents argue musical based on the gory Stephen King novel is inappropriate and takes shots at fundamentalist Christians, but school defends decision and the powerful anti-bullying message the production sends.

A playbill from a production of "Carrie: The Musical" depicts some of the elements Farmington Public Schools parents say are inappropriate for young audiences.
A playbill from a production of "Carrie: The Musical" depicts some of the elements Farmington Public Schools parents say are inappropriate for young audiences.

Some North Farmington High School parents aren’t thrilled, but the show will go on.

“Carrie: The Musical”  – based on the 1974 Stephen King novel about a shy high school girl who, it turns out, you really, really did not want to anger – is the school’s spring musical.

The decision to put on the stage adaptation of “Carrie: The Musical” May 1-4 has garnered national attention for the school after parents objected that the play is inappropriate for young audiences because it ends with a mass murder in the school gym.

The central character is Carrie White, a misfit who is bullied at the school by the popular crowd and ignored by everyone else, according to a synopsis on broadway.com. Her life isn’t much better at home, where she is at the mercy of her loving, but cruelly over-protective mother. When she’s made the butt of a cruel joke, she uses her supernatural powers to drive home an unforgettable messages.

The musical version of “Carrie” eschews some of the gore that made movie audiences turn away and instead focuses on the bullying that caused Carrie to use her powers.

“I find the notion of using ‘Carrie” to be incredibly offensive on many levels,” said parent Tom Adams, who thinks it glorifies vengeance and promotes stereotypes against fundamentalist Christians, the Oakland Press reports.

He thinks the production was chosen not on its merits, “but  rather by its inherent divisiveness, and on that measure alone should be disqualified for presentation.”

Like Adams, parent Julie Devine said she was “disturbed by the portrayal of Carrie’s mom as a Christian nut job bent on destruction,” which conflicts with the schools’ support of diversity, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Devine, speaking at a school board meeting last week, said she was “dumbstruck” by the school’s decision to go ahead with the musical. “I thought, ‘How arrogant, how insensitive and how reckless to put on a show that ends with a mass murder in a high school gy,’ ” she said.

She also thinks the “hopelessness and violence of ‘Carrie’ is a slap in the face” that undermines educators’ efforts to “empower students to use their words to settle disputes, and to reach out to staff and friends when that doesn’t solve the problem.”

However, Christopher Estrada supports the school’s decision to stage the musical.

“I think it’s sad that parents are using the school’s play for unsubstantiated and fear mongering purposes and limiting thespian minded students from expressing themselves. ... It’s just a play,” he told the Oakland Press. “The people who are upset don’t need to attend if they are that visibly taken aback by the undertones. …”

At the school board meeting, Principal Joe Greene defended the selection. “It pushes the notion of anti-bullying through a fantastical lens,” he said. “It’s a look at difficult topics and engages people into thinking about it.”

The  anti-bullying message is one that senior Katherine Harvath, who’s in the chorus,  thinks could increase empathy among audience members.

“The cast and crew have had our eyes opened to try and make a change in the world to stop the idea of bullying,” Harvath wrote in an email to the newspaper. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and none of them can be considered wrong. It is unfortunate that people cannot look past the violence and religious aspect of the show. I believe that ‘Carrie’ is going to be a wonderful show that will have a lasting impact on everyone who experiences it.”

Parent Claire Petrack of Farmington Hills echoed that.

“The takeaway or lasting impression from this play that our students and parents will leave with is that same sick feeling that always comes when horrible people do horrible things to other people,” Petrack said.

The district has a history of pushing the envelope with its theatrical productions, including “The Laramie Project,” “Hair” and “Tommy,” but the administration has consistently stood by those involved in the formal process of approving productions. “It’s the professionals involved who should be making the decision,” Superintendent Susan Zurvalec said, noting that in her 25 years with Farmington Public Schools, the district has never pulled the curtain on productions.

DISCUSS: Do you support the decision to stage "Carrie: The Musical" at North Farmington High School? Why or why not?
Tamara March 11, 2014 at 12:59 PM
Farmington has already proven their anti-Christian bias. This just advances their indoctrination efforts so of course they want to proceed with it. I agree with Kalen and Tom's initial comments as well. Why schools that we trust to take care of our children insist on sending them these terrible messages is beyond me, but as long as parents don't complain, they will keep pushing the envelope.
Tom Adams March 11, 2014 at 01:10 PM
“It’s the professionals involved who should be making the decision,” Superintendent Susan Zurvalec said, noting that in her 25 years with Farmington Public Schools, the district has never pulled the curtain on productions. I find that comment chilling......
Tamara March 11, 2014 at 01:53 PM
Yes - so if these "professionals" mount a porno - its all good - right? Whatever they "think" is best... Must be good for the kids... Great supervision this Sup is providing...
Cynthia Reynolds March 12, 2014 at 11:02 AM
Wow there seems to be an inappropriate theme to the play productions this year. Harrison High School's Peter Pan production made me cringe when the "Indians" came on stage saying "Ooga Booga Ooga..." The kids were running around depicting Native Americans the way they did 50 years ago. I think people should be more progressive,creative, and sensitive to the messages that they are sending when they plan a school play. We want them to learn about and embrace other cultures, but we choose to depict them in a stereotypical manner. We want them to reject violence, but we display a character who gets her revenge by murdering her peers... And the worse part is, when parents and the community speak up, they get shut down. Smh...

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