The original Broadway musical version of Stephen King's 1974 novel Carrie was the most expensive flop of its time. The show premiered in 1988, starring Betty Buckley as Carrie's God-fearing mother and newcomer Linzi Hateley as the nerd-turned-cruel-prom-queen-joke, Carrie, and closed three days later. The show's horrible costumes, choreography and musical numbers, like one that took place on a pig farm as the high school students slaughtered the animals, is the stuff of theater-folklore, remembered in books like Ken Mendelbaum's Not Since Carrie: 40 Years of Broadway Musical Flops. The show is both loved and hated for its ridiculousness and camp-charm. Now, a much more refined and de-piged version is back off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theater, starring Molly Ranson as Carrie and the amazing Broadway veteran Marin Mazzie (she created roles in Ragtime and Passion) as Carrie's evangelical, and abusive mother. Here we chat with Mazzie about the updates to the show, what it's like to be in a revived Broadway flop and how she fell in love with her actor husband while drowning him in a bathtub.
Did you see the original production?
I did and I remember certain things about it that aren't in our show anymore. I remember the bad parts about it. And those things have been removed from our production.
Like the pig dance?
Yeah I remember that quite well actually. I mean, how could you forget it?
Betty Buckley played your part in the original and in interviews she really seemed to believe it would do well. As an actress, when you're in a flop, do you think you know it from the start?
I think that you probably don't really know. You're so deeply involved in it and you care about it. I guess I would say the biggest flop I've been in was the play Enron, which only ran for a few weeks. I thought it was an amazing play. I was shocked. So there's my example of being in something that I thought was extremely timely and important and that people would flock to. I had no idea -- I thought it was brilliant.
Carrie obviously deals with a lot of high school issues. What were you like in high school?
I went to a Catholic high school. I did shows, I was a pom-pom girl. I had friends. I wasn't an outcast, certainly I wasn't a Carrie... but, when you go to this show and you see all those different types of kids up there, the good girl, the bad girl, they're all trying to fit in. I remember so many times in high school just feeling awful about myself and nervous and scared and worrying about being accepted. I just think that's something everyone goes through, and that's why the show is so relevant, not just to kids today, but to anyone. I think everyone has experienced feeling insecure.
Do you have kids?
No, we have a dog. He's a miniature schnauzer and is our child. We're definitely those kind of dog people, who think their dog is their kid.
Are you a Stephen King fan?
I didn't see Carrie [the movie] when it came out because I don't like scary movies. I didn't see the movie until I was going to do the show. I like Stephen King's books, but I get scared. My husband can still scare me in our apartment -- he hides in the closet and jumps out at me. I'm a little better then I used to be. Living in New York helps you.
How did you meet your husband?
We met doing a crazy show off-Broadway called The Trojan Women: A Love Story, by Charles Mee. It was kind of this avant-garde version of [Euripedes'] The Trojan Women. I played Helen of Troy and he played Aeneas. We fell in love and at the end of the show I drowned him in a hot tub. Very romantic. Well, it was romantic until that point.
A lot of fans of the original are coming to see this hoping for the same legendarily bad scenes as the original. Is that frustrating to you?
Yes, but that stuff isn't in our play. There is a teeny amount, a few elements, that they will laugh at. But I also think people laugh because they're uncomfortable. There's a lot of things that are uncomfortable in our show.
What do you say to people going into Carrie thinking it's going to be campy?
Come and see the show, try not to have a preconceived notion of it. I guarantee, within seconds, the story will draw you in and take you on a journey. And it will be good.
Carrie runs through April 8th at the Lucille Lortel Theater. Production photos of Mazzie and Rawson by Joan Marcus.