Carmen High contains every teenage cliché available as two jocks vie over the attention of the most popular cheerleader in school. Messily mixing multiple musical forms, Carmen High scrappily pieces together a melodramatic story of tortured youth.
The play jumps from love to rape and, most bizarrely, murder in a desperate attempt to cling to the plot of its inspiration, Bizet’s Carmen. Songs are borrowed from Bizet’s score and updated with language to fit boy troubles and football chants. Though the lead actor has lost her voice and her teacher steps in to sing, to her credit she continues to act with gusto.
The pressures of teenage sexuality are focused on throughout, in this twisted world where the choice is not whether or not Carmen is interested in a boy, but which one she must have. Carmen High touches on serious issues but their importance rarely has space to emerge through all the melodrama.
There are moments of genuine creative ingenuity as members of the ensemble rap, beatbox or play saxophone. It is both a joy and a relief to see the young performers so comfortable as they dance to modern music or rap us a story. As stand-alone pieces these sketches shine, but they aren’t celebrated enough and are stumbled into and out of via operatic songs that repeatedly slow the pace of the already convoluted story.
At almost two hours, Carmen High is stretched. This is clearly a talented group but there's nothing holding this untidy conglomeration of teenage clichés together.