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4/2/14

Heathers: The Musical...IS HAPPENING, YOU GUYS!

If prompted, I couldn't articulate the constructs of what my favorite musical is - it is more of a, “I’ll know it when I see it” sorta thing. Spring Awakening shot to the top of my list so many years ago because I loved the music, I found it hilarious, relevant, authentic and OMG, those performances. But ahead of time, I never would have thought a sexually-repressed group of teens in 1890’s Germany singing a modern alternative-rock and folk score would ever result in the unbelievable show it is.


Which brings me to Heathers: The Musical, my new favorite thing out of all the things. Now open at New World Stages, this adaptation of the 1988 cult-classic hit every single one of my bonkersauce buttons - including some buttons I didn’t know I would have liked to be hit - in one of the most OUTRAGEOUSLY-FUN theatre outings in the history of forever.

Well okay, it’s the first act that is really so much fun and hooked me early on. The third number in is an “I CAN’T EVEN” for the ages. After being introduced as a character, JD starts beating the shit out of the jocks - IN SLOW MOTION! - while Veronica goes out-of-scene and sings about how repulsed, yet kinda-horny she feels. THAT HAPPENED, YOU GUYS!

As if that wasn’t enough, the final twenty or so minutes of Act I had me losing it until my face started to hurt. That is because Ram and Kurt, the two jocks, sing a ridiculous song about balls and wanting to get some action for their balls. That’s right…balls. As in, male genitalia. And by the way, the track listing in the Playbill is hilariously coy about this song, calling it “Blue” (yes, as in 'blue-balled’). THAT HAPPENED, YOU GUYS!

And yet, we’re still not done…because how else do you follow up a number like that?! Well, Heathers: The Musical recycled the orchestrations to "Balls" “Blue” for a reprise regarding a…I’m just gonna come out and say it…"sword fight in your mouth." With a line ripped straight from the movie, Kurt and Ram spread a rumor that Veronica doled out some blow jobs to the both of them and these dudes proceed to sing about a...sword fight in her mouth. THAT HAPPENED, YOU GUYS!

All of this in the first act, with a bunch of crazy lines featured in the book and the classic one-liners the film is best known for. It is almost like the folks behind the show are saying, “you want some fun and camp? BAM, HILARIOUS ONE-LINERS AND SONGS ABOUT BALLS AND BLOWJOBS. ACT ONE, OVER AND OUT, BITCHES!"

The second act managed the trick of following up the first act with an approach more in line with the movie’s tone and mood. They ran the risk of the show looking like two separate conceits spliced together, but it worked out pretty well, I have to say. The first act may have been roof-crashingly nuts in a “GIFT that KEEPS on GIVING” sort of way, but the second act is no less important - it maintains the dark humor and progresses through the story while marrying it with the realism of teenage life (their angst and turmoil, most notably). When songs like “Seventeen” and “Lifeboat” make their way, they don’t bring the show down; they add another dimension to it in a relatable, social sense.

My BFF Kay saw the show with me (and has seen the film version more then I have) and after it concluded, we noticed that the show didn’t miss a line or a pivotal scene from the movie. Even better, they expanded on some of the characterizations of Veronica, JD and even select supporting characters, like Martha. This adaptation - aside from not taking the source material too seriously - pays great homage to the film while not copying it outright.

Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe’s adapted book is great, but it is the score that succeeds far more then it fails. Most of the songs are modern pop-rock, but you can hear the 80’s roots baked into the orchestrations, which I loved. There was at least five songs I need on my iPhone and another three I appreciate for story-purposes or for being flat-out cray cray…job well done, sirs!

The ensemble is holding court on that stage like it is their jobs (which, you know, it is), but it is Barrett Wilbert Weed leaving the largest impression. I knew ahead of time her casting as Veronica was perfection and she WERQed that stage like it was her bitch, securing a Lucille Lortel nomination in the process. Her “Dead Girl Walking” - an instant favorite song with its edgy, bad-ass appeal as Veronica belts about how leaving the Heathers will be the end of her, so she opts to bone JD (THAT HAPPENED, YOU GUYS!) - is a fantastic showcase for her voice and attitude; she absolutely killed it (pun not intended). With a doe-eyed facial expression evoking Winona Ryder’s Veronica from the film, Weed never misses an opportunity for a dry laugh or to bring a personal take to Veronica’s roller-coaster of a high school experience (essentially, her performing challenge for Act II). She fully-inhabited the part and sang like perfection. I’d say watch out for her if she wasn’t already on our collective radars.

I had an absolute ball at Heathers: The Musical on account of my love for insanity on stage and big laughs, which is why it already staked a claim as one of my favorite musicals. But even if that is purely preferential, there is an intelligence on display (no, really) with the overall vision of the show, pulling the best parts from an already great film and adding a whole bunch of worthy counterparts. In simpler terms, mix-in some big laughs, some damn fine costuming (LOVED Veronica’s costume), a stellar leading-lady in an also-strong cast and songs I want to jam out to in my bedroom...all of that adds up to me being one ultra-happy theater-goer, typing in CAPS and screaming (literally) "THAT HAPPENED, YOU GUYS." *Elated Smiley Face Times 1000*

Seriously, bring on a cast recording Heathers people. I need to sing “Dead Girl Walking” at my next karaoke session. Trust me to bring it, Barrett-style.


Ticket Provided by the Production


Photo Credit: Chad Batka

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