The musical adaptation of Stephen King’s horror classic “Carrie” is notorious for flopping on Broadway almost instantaneously. After just five public performances, the show closed to the public, leaving “Carrie” fan Josh Selzer in New York without a ticket to an eagerly anticipated show.

Selzer, who now directs theater at McDaniel College, said he has been obsessed with the show for 29 years. He said after missing his chance to see it on Broadway, he began seeking out every bootleg recording he could. After rights to the show were released for public performances in 2012, and the show’s reputation started to recover, he decided it was his chance to bring this tale to life.


“Carrie” is a bullied teenager raised by a mother who uses religion as an abusive tool to control her daughter. She discovers she has telekinetic abilities, uncontrollably tied to her emotional state, and by the end of the tale wreaks havoc on the classmates who tormented her.

The show follows the plot of the film closely as it shares a writer with the Brian De Palma picture, Lawrence Cohen. Elements from the novel, including a narration by Carrie’s classmate, Sue, are also taken from the original King novel. One of the major challenges of producing “Carrie” is handling the telekinetic effects.

“It’s so complicated,” Selzer said. “Every musical has its singing and dancing, but we also have violence and blood and effects.”

Selzer said he decided not to go the route of high-technology, but rather embraced a number of theatrical techniques that allowed all of the death and destruction to happen solely through the actors on stage.

Selzer said the story is even more relevant now than it was when it was first written.

“I think we all recognize Carrie, because we were her, or we picked on somebody like her, or more realistically were both at some point in our lives,” Selzer said. “It was really prophetic in terms of discussion about high school killings and bullying.”

Selzer said the narrative, which ends with a school massacre, can be tough to handle in the age of school shootings, but it tackles important messages and goes out of its way not to glorify the topics it engages with, be it religious fanaticism or violence.

Emma Bartels-Jones, a McDaniel junior who plays Carrie, said the character is incredibly easy to relate to.

“I see her as a shyer, more timid, way more religious version of myself,” Bartels-Jones said. “She’s awkward in situations; I’m awkward in situations. She’s a character everyone can relate to. It’s hard to go through those things and come out on the other side.”

Bartels-Jones said the scenes where she gets to cut loose and get revenge on the other students are some of the most satisfying for her as a performer.

One of the unique aspects of this McDaniel production is the casting of Department Chair Elizabeth van den Berg as Carrie’s mother, Margaret.

This is the first time that a McDaniel professor has ever joined their students on stage for one of the school’s theatrical performances. She said it was a little bit terrifying to make that first step on stage, because there was the added pressure to prove herself to all of her students. Despite the pressure, van den Berg said it was the right move for the role.

“There’s a depth of experience that an undergrad just doesn’t have about being a parent,” van den Berg said. “They don’t know what it’s like to have a child, to know that emotional attachment as well as that protective and fierceness a parent feels.”