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‘SCarrie’ spoofs horror classic, but adds heart to the fun

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Bricolage
Connor McCanlus in Bricolage's Midnight Radio production of 'SCarrie: The Musical'
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Bricolage
Andrew Swackhamer in Bricolage's Midnight Radio production of 'SCarrie: The Musical'
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Bricolage
Kristiann Menotiades and Connor McCanlus in Bricolage's Midnight Radio production of 'SCarrie: The Musical'

Stephen King’s “Carrie” gets yet another life as the season opener for Bricolage Production Company‘s “Midnight Radio” series.

You may already know this much-bullied teen from King’s 1974 thriller, director Brian DePalma’s 1976 movie, the 2013 film remake. Or, perhaps, the live-theater appearances as a monumental 1988 Broadway flop, a reworked 2012 off-Broadway production or the unauthorized spoof “Scarrie! The Musical.”

Or maybe, like me, you’ve never seen it, but are familiar with the general outline of the story: a high-school misfit has hidden gifts and an insanely strict and disapproving mother who pushes her too far and unleashes those powers.

Whether you’re a longtime fan or someone seeing it for the first time, Bricolage has brought its signature vision to the cult classic in ways that are likely to engage veterans and newcomers.

Tami Dixon, a playwright and Bricolage’s producing artistic director, has adapted the story to fit the “Midnight Radio” format of a live radio broadcast from the golden days of radio, complete with performer-generated sound effects, humorous commercials and a four-piece rock band playing original music by Joel Abbott.

The radio show is interrupted by an on-the-scene reporter’s account of a fire and explosion at Allderdice High School on prom night.

As the reporter — played with voracious media exuberance by John Patrick Shannon — interviews students, the gym teacher and others, the back story unfolds.

Director Matt M. Morrow balances elements of spoof and homage in this 90-minute drama that is funny and surprisingly touching.

Think of it as a revenge fantasy that will be enjoyed by anyone who was ever bullied, ignored, dismissed or made fun of in high school, which is pretty much all of us.

Carrie gets a gender-bending performance from the mustache-endowed Connor McCanlus. He’s deliberately awkward and surprisingly vulnerable as Carrie.

Though played as a send-up of the character, you actually begin to feel uncomfortable about laughing at him/her. Or maybe that’s the point.

Kristiann Menotiades does a spectacular job balancing humor and reality in two roles — a Pittsburghese-spouting coach and Carrie’s guilt-ridden, highly religious mother.

Hayley Nielsen and Andrew Swackhamer turn high-school sweethearts Sue and Tommy into characters that entertain and amuse while actually resembling well-meaning teenagers.

Julianne Avolio draws big laughs as Chris, the spoiled, self-impressed teen who finally pushes Carrie over the edge.

“Midnight Radio” regulars know to arrive in time for the pre-show, happy half hour that offers audience interactions and encounters themed to each show. Just a word of warning: Beware the hall monitor. One wrong word, and you’ll find yourself doing time in detention.

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, [email protected] or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.

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