The musical is of course based on the 1989 dark comedy film Heathers, starring Winona Ryder and Christan Slater- which was not originally a musical. The film is a twisted high school tale revolving around a clique of the utmost popular girls at Westerberg High: Heather, Heather, Heather, and our protagonist, Veronica. When Veronica gets fed up with the antics of her mean-girl best friends, she begins hanging out with the brooding new kid J.D., and things quickly take a sinister, deadly turn.
I’ve been a fan of Heathers since I was old enough to be too young to rent it from the video store. The film earns its hard R rating, pulling no punches when tackling taboo topics like bullying, suicide, date rape, and murder- all involving teens. While the flagrant display of these controversial issues may be off-putting for some, in its own psychotic way Heathers is bold and thought provoking and sparks conversation that many would shy away from. And that was nearly thirty years ago.
So how does the musical hold up to the original? In a day and age where remakes and updates usually take a watered-down approach to their source material, I was pleasantly surprised early on by the play’s notable disclaimer of “strong language and content”. I knew we were off to a good start.
Upon entering the small theater, which houses around a hundred, it’s impossible to ignore the vibrant set, straight out of an episode of Saved by the Bell, with every locker and compartment splashed with the same variety of colors you’d find in a box of Crayolas. It’s your first hint that Heathers: The Musical is set in the 80’s, an when you meet the characters, this is further enforced. We meet a veritable breakfast club of high schoolers dressed to the nines: the geek, the stoner, the hipster, the party chick, the preppy, our main jocks Kurt and Ram, and the untouchable Heathers wreaking havoc in the halls.
And then there’s Veronica. Played charmingly by actress Madeline Krucek, Veronica is the star of the show. She’s the lovable girl-next-door type, sucked into the Heathers’ wicked vortex of popularity, and drawn to the dark side by J.D.’s nefarious advances. Each of the main characters hit it out of the park, and the entire cast excelled with flamboyant performances and flawless execution. Many pull double duty, playing multiple roles as needed, and everyone sang their heart out, led by director Scott Spence, musical director Larry Goodpaster, and choreographer Martin Cespedes.
The music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy were perfectly crafted. Each song was an extrapolation of Heathers themes, adding a new layer of depth to the characters and occasionally more comic relief than we had in the original film. J.D.’s number, “Freeze Your Brain”, delved deeper into his turmoil as a kid moving town to town, who’s only solace comes in the form of a slushie at the nearest 7-11. A personal favorite of mine was “Blue”, sung by the jocks Ram and Kurt, which hilariously tackles their pent up sexual frustration.
While some of the scenes and situations were adjusted for the stage, as a fan of the original I was colored stoked by the entire presentation, which clearly was born out of love for the original film. When I left the theater my concerns about the adaptation were relieved. I’m happy to say that Heathers: The Musical was not a nerfed, politically corrected PG-13 rework, but rather a faithful interpretation that carries Heathers still relevant messages of teen angst on to a new generation.
Get your tickets now for Heathers: The Musical at the Beck Center running on weekends through July 2nd before they sell out!