“Heathers: The Musical” Too Dark to be Real-Too Funny to be False
Elizabeth Hurd Published: October 12th, 2016
Daniel Waters is the well-respected screen writer known for ‘Adventures of Ford Fairlane’ and ‘Hudson Hawk’ who also penned “Heathers” in 1988. “Heathers” earned an Edgar Award, but was largely overlooked commercially. As is often the case with ‘sleepers’ “Heathers” ultimately became a cult classic. Those good old school days are a myth, and the high school experience is horrific for most kids. “Heathers: The Musical” is the rock musical based on Water’s film recently produced on Broadway for enthusiastic audiences. Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy are responsible for the book, music and lyrics for this dark and very racy musical comedy.
Set in the late 80’s, the story concerns a bright seventeen year old student, Veronica Sawyers. Up against the mean girls, all named Heather; she is an outcast with one friend, the chubby wallflower, Martha. Veronica is excellent at forging hall passes and after rescuing all three Heathers from detention is adopted into the group. Nevertheless, she is struck by their shallow behavior and regrets spurning Martha. The two most popular boys are typical kiss and brag types, Ram and Kurt. In the meantime Veronica has fallen for a new boy in class, J. D. He is a young man who has never fit in; moving from school to school with his neglectful widowed father. The two lovers’ dream of a better world where high school cliques are not all powerful and J. D. manipulates Veronica into helping him take revenge on the popular kids.
W. Jerome Stevenson directs the young ensemble casts skillfully and although the voices do not always blend perfectly the story is told powerfully. “Heathers: The Musical” is a dangerously dark comedy and younger members of the audience delight in the telling of the story. Older patrons tend to be shocked, as they recognize more fully the futility of falling prey to teenage angst and high school mobbing.
The large cast has some stand out performances. Hannah Finnegan delivers vocally as well as interpretatively in the role of Veronica Sawyer. Her character is sensitive. Her ability to be oblivious to the consequences of her actions as she maintains a campy twinkle in her eye is an excellent set up for the audience who might otherwise be afraid to titter. Jared Blount creates an intelligent, logical and mature façade that naturally masks the flawed character of J.D. Veronica is taken in and only realizes too late that he is a dangerous kid bent on destruction. Phoebe Butts is superb as Martha, the chubby outcast that will someday be a great beauty inside and out. Her poignant song is powerfully heart wrenching.
The three Heathers are Emily Pace as Heather Chandler, the ‘Miss It’ girl, Claudia Fain as Heather McNamara, the head cheerleader girl and Mariah Warren as Heather Duke the rich witch girl. Dakota Muckelrath is Ram and Hagen Wano is Kurt and these two jocks mock and rock with ridicule in the halls of this small town high school. The immature bully boys call it fun, and the impish grins of Muckelrath and Wano are exactly right!
The various adults are played by James Hughes, Timothy Stewart and Megan Montgomery. They are quite effective in their various roles of completely ineffective adults. The cast also features a talented and energetic ensemble.
Choreographer Brian Barry creates a wonderful impression with the dance numbers and, together with Stevenson’s direction develops a brilliant slow-motion fight scene as well as interesting dance movement. Todd S. Malicoate provides his usual impeccable musical direction for the show. While “Heathers: The Musical” is not for everyone, it is certainly a favorite for an audience who love seeing the darker side of human nature exposed. The language, behavior and attitudes of these characters is bound to be offensive to patrons expecting an old fashioned musical. The kids love it!
“Heathers: The Musical” plays through October 29, 2016 at The Pollard Theatre, 120 W. Harrison Avenue in historic downtown Guthrie. For information or tickets visit www.thepollard.org or call the box office at 405-282-2800.