Last year, Riverdale staged Carrie: The Musical in a very special episode that was part Glee and part horror hellstorm. It is the latest example of how Stephen King’s first novel continues to resonate throughout the pop culture landscape. The reasoning for this is simple: Carrie is a universally relatable story about outsiders that has much to say about topics like bullying, revenge, teen angst, religion, and telekinetic ass-kicking. (Problems that are as old as time… well, maybe not that last one).
To examine just how much of a juggernaut Carrie is, we’ve put together this timeline dating from the book’s genesis to today to provide some context into why the tale has endured for so long.
1973: Legend has it that Stephen King was unhappy with his early work on Carrie, which was originally intended as a magazine story, and threw it away. His wife Tabitha believed in the tale that he was trying to tell, retrieved the pages out of the garbage and encouraged him to keep going.
1974: Carrie is published by Doubleday in hardback. It is a modest seller.
1975: The book is released in paperback and becomes a sensation, making Stephen King a household name and establishing him as one of the most important horror authors of the 20th century, if not history altogether.
1976: A film adaptation of Carrie, written by Lawrence D. Cohen and directed by Brian de Palma is released to theaters on November 3. The film, with Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie earning Academy Award nominations for their respective roles as Carrie and Margaret White, and featuring early performances from Nancy Allen, William Katt, P.J. Soles, Amy Irving, Edie McClurg, and John Travolta, is a blockbuster sensation and a critical success.
1977: Ruby (also starring Laurie) and the made-for-TV movie The Spell are released, both feature similarities to Carrie; Sissy Spacek hosts Saturday Night Live and is featured in a Carrie-inspired sketch.
1978: The wave of Carrie cash-ins continues, as Jennifer, The Initiation of Sarah, Patrick, and The Fury (directed by de Palma and starring Irving) are unleashed upon the viewing public.
1980: Stephen King publishes Firestarter, which features a girl who can set fires…with her mind!; King appears on The Dick Cavett Show with other icons of the horror genre.
1981: Carrie screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen begins work on a musical based on the story.
1984: The film adaptation of Firestarter is released, with Drew Barrymore in the title role; the first workshop of Carrie: The Musical is held in New York City with Cohen joined by musician Christopher Gore and lyricist Dean Pitchford.
1988: A try-out version of Carrie: The Musical opens in Stratford-Upon-Avon as a co-production of the Royal Shakespeare Company, following a month-long run in which many changes were made the show prepares for its Broadway opening; Carrie: The Musical begins Broadway previews on April 28th, and premieres on May 15th. The reviews are so brutal that the show loses its investors and closes on May 15th after a mere five regular performances and 16 previews. The musical quickly becomes a go-to punchline within the theater world, and loses $7,000,000.
1988 – 2006: Due to the show’s infamous notoriety, audio and video footage of Carrie: The Musical hit the underground tape trading circuit and, later, the Internet. The work begins to find a devoted cult audience.
1998: The unauthorized Scarrie! The Musical opens in Anderson, Illinois. It would later have productions in Chicago in 2005 and 2012.
1999: The Rage: Carrie 2 hits theaters with only Amy Irving returning from the original film, reprising her role as Sue Snell. The film is created without the involvement of Stephen King and underperforms at the box office.
2002: A made for TV remake of Carrie from Hannibal‘s Bryan Fuller and starring Angela Bettis and Patricia Clarkson airs on NBC. At the end of the telefilm, Carrie survives, setting up for a TV series that never materialized.
2006: Playwright Erik Jackson unsuccessfully attempts to get the rights to Carrie: The Musical and instead creates a tongue-on-cheek, officially sanctioned play based on the original story.
2009: Cohen, Pitchford and Gore announce their plans for a revised Off-Broadway remount of Carrie: The Musical.
2010: Erik Jackson’s Carrie play is staged by Philadelphia’s Brat Productions.
2012: Carrie: The Musical opens at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, and is a success — running 46 regular performances and 34 previews. The show eventually becomes available for high schools to license productions of.
2013: Productions of Carrie: The Musical are staged in Seattle (with Next to Normal star Alice Ripley as Margaret White) and Manilla; a remake of Carrie written by Lawrence D. Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (who would go on to create Riverdale) hits theaters. Chloë Grace Moretz stars in the title role, and the film makes $85,000,000.
2015: Carrie: The Musical is staged on London’s West End, and a new version of the play entitled Carrie: The Killer Immersive Experience plays to sold-out audiences in Los Angeles, getting nationwide news coverage in the process.
The future for Carrie is unclear, yet you can count that the timeless tale of this troubled teen won’t be going away anytime soon.