There’s more to Carrie than just a tale of terror

Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - September 16, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - More than just a tale of terror, Carrie can be taken as a commentary on the horrors of bullying. Atlantis Productions brings Carrie The Musical (based on the bestselling Stephen King novel that spawned the haunting big-screen adaptation) to the Manila stage, from Sept. 20 to Oct. 6 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza in Makati. And for the young talents — including Mikkie Bradshaw in the title role — that Atlantis has rounded up to complete the cast, they hope Carrie is an illuminating watch for the audience as much as it is (as a work experience) for them.

Carrie the Musical is about Carrie White, a teen outcast tormented at school and who is at the mercy of a domineering religious zealot of a mother. But Carrie possesses a special power, and when pushed to her brink, there’s no stopping her from using it.

Mikkie, 22, stars alongside Markki Stroem, 26, who is Tommy Ross, a star athlete and valedictorian who plays a pivotal role in Carrie’s life, while Garie Concepcion, 24, is mean girl Helen, part of the popular crowd out to make Carrie’s high school life miserable. In a chat with The STAR recently, Mikkie, Markki and Garie offered their views and even some experiences on the subject of bullying.  

The musical, featuring music and lyrics by Academy Award winners Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford, respectively, and a book by Lawrence Cohen, who did the screenplay of the Brian de Palma film, opened in Broadway in 1988. Mikkie reckoned, “I don’t think it resonated as much with the people as it would now because even though bullying has existed as long as mankind has, for sure, it is more visible now. It’s been called to attention now, as there are videos (on YouTube and elsewhere) of kids beating up other kids or news items on kids committing suicide because they were bullied. So, I think Carrie is a comment on something that needs to be called to attention, and bullying is starting to be seen as a real problem. When you’re a kid, those are your formative years, so to be beaten to the dust, so to speak, it’s going to really make impact on a kid, shaping up who he is in the future.

“So, I think Carrie is one of those comments on something that’s very important in society now since more attention is given to the subject and more people are showing actual concern to stop it. Carrie is a nod to that direction. Yes, it’s a horror film, a thriller — the film, for one, was more about the thriller aspect of it — but there’s a deeper psychological aspect to it and (the play) is more about why it happened, what drove Carrie to do these terrible things,” Mikkie added.

While she considers herself lucky for not being a victim of “extreme bullying,” Mikkie was subjected to name-calling and meanness in school. She recalled, “I went to an international school and we took up foreign languages. At that time, I was 13, we were learning different French words, and the word jambon came up which meant ham. My teacher asked this boy, whom I had a big crush on, to use the word in a sentence, and he went, ‘Mikkie est jambon (Mikkie is ham),’ so I went home crying that day because I was in love with him. I also got locked up in the bathroom sometimes and I got called a lot of names. I was called ogre or troll because I was big, pimply and kinda dark. Kids can be cruel.”

“Then,” she added, “14 onwards, something good happened. The Lord answered my prayers, I lost weight, I grew my hair and things started to develop. I’m just fortunate I didn’t get bullied like really attacked. I wasn’t a victim of those really, really cruel and extreme bullying.”

Same thing with Markki. As a “dorky” kid before (hard to believe now but he used to be “really thin with glasses and braces”), Markki wasn’t also spared from some hurtful teasing or pranks by aggressive peers in school, but he pointed out that bullying these days have assumed other forms. He said, “Back in the day, when they say bullying (it means physically) beaten up. Now, it’s like a psychological warfare. For one, there’s cyber-bullying.”

For Garie, “As a child, I was really huge, so every time I would walk out, people would stare. People really care how you look, that’s a sad truth, and I think that’s already a form of bullying — even if you don’t say it in his face, but you’re already thinking it… I think that Carrie keeps up with the times and is very relevant. And it’s nice to work on something that hopefully, sends an anti-bullying message.”

Mikkie, Markki and Garie can now look back on those experiences with a tinge of amusement. When asked to offer some tips in dealing with a bully, Mikkie believes it’s more important to educate the “bully” than the “bullied,” saying: “I don’t think it’s so much teaching the kids to surviving as to educating other children as to why they shouldn’t be doing it.”

As a mother herself, she added, “There must be increasing awareness on how much one is really hurting a person and the importance of raising children to be sensitive to and accepting of other people.”

Speaking of mothers, for Garie, growing up without a father and with her showbiz background, she could have been exposed to more taunting and intrigues had it not been for her mother. While she admitted that “it’s sad you hear a lot of things,” the soft-spoken Garie was also quick to add, “I think my mom protected me enough. It also helps that I grew up knowing my family background. Maybe, I just felt bad during the days, when in school you have a father-daughter thing or day, I wouldn’t have a dad. But you know, my mom would be there, my uncles would be there, and my grandfather would be there, so that’s okay. It was never an issue for me.”

She also said, “Yes, it helps to have parents who are strong. Then when you grow up, you tell yourself that you want to be like that strong person. Like for me, I grew up being raised by my mom alone, so she’s the only person I looked up to.”

Meanwhile, Carrie marks Garie’s professional musical theater debut. She has already acted in TV episodes and released a debut album in 2011 titled Relaks Lang Tayo. Direk Bobby has described Garie as having the makings of a musical theater leading lady.

Garie said of her first musical theater project: “It’s still not sinking in! I’m very excited and nervous at the same time. This is actually the second time I auditioned for Atlantis. I’ve been exposed to plays growing up and it has been a dream to be in one. I feel very lucky and blessed to be given this opportunity to be part of Carrie.”

Markki, on the other hand, plunges into theater work at least once a year, describing it as the ultimate acting and vocal training.

Discussing his character, he said, “He’s an all-around popular kid in school, but he has his own little problems in life. He doesn’t know what he wants to do after he graduates. He’s the varsity captain but he’s a frustrated poet and to a certain extent, he’s kind of bullied because of that aspect. He’s kind of confused like everyone else in the story. That’s what makes him, I guess, also drawn to Carrie not in a sense that he’s in love with her, but he can relate to her, with what she’s going through. Tommy has his own insecurities that he masks unlike Carrie.”

Markki, who started out in the biz as a singer who’s into jazz and alt-rock, made his first foray into theater via the hit Atlantis production Next To Normal. He has been cast in a variety of movies this year — from the comedy Raketeros, to the Cinemalaya erotic period piece Amor Y Muerte, to the (still shooting) Metro Manila Filmfest action-drama 10,000 Hours.

“It’s all a growing and learning experience. The more you push yourself to do different things, the more you can do different characters, that’s how I see it,” Markki said. 

Carrie, on the other hand, is the first title role for Mikkie. It pushes her emotionally like no other. “Definitely, there’s a lot of pressure on my part to prepare. I try to go back to that time and state when I wasn’t so strong and when I was more vulnerable to people’s comments and prone to hurt. My biggest challenge is to strip myself down, to bring Carrie to that point when she just becomes so vengeful, that point where enough is enough… a person who completely lashes out.”

Asked for a “vulnerable” moment in her life, which she can somehow draw “inspiration” from, Mikkie cited the initial years of being a single mom. “Of course, (being a single parent) is hard. It’s not an ideal situation. But I’m lucky to have an understanding and supportive family and friends. I think I can proudly say that I’ve handled it well. I think we are really doing well. We are our own little family, very happy. My daughter understands our situation as much as a four-year-old can. We have a lot to be thankful for.”

Prior to Carrie, Mikkie appeared in such Atlantis productions as Rock of Ages, Nine and Disney’s Aladdin. She has always wanted to be an actress. “This has always been the plan, and it’s just starting to take shape now.”

(For tickets to Carrie, call Atlantis Productions at 892-7078 or TicketWorld at 891-9999.)

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