Heathers: The Musical welcomes you to their candy store


photo by Corryn Brock

Big fun. The cast of Heathers: The Musical gathers for bows after a successful last rehearsal before opening night. The fun show also has a serious theme to take away from it. Heather Banks (Veronica Sawyer) suggests audience members should keep the lyrics “let us be seventeen” in mind and “live in the present moment and enjoy what life has in store for you.”

by Corryn Brock, Reporter

A 1988 cult classic turned musical takes the stage in Shilling Hall’s Albert Taylor Theatre May 4-7, 2017.

The Heathers rule the school, showing no mercy to anyone who dares to be in their way. However, Veronica Sawyer proves her worth in the form of forgery. In turn, Heather Chandler, Heather Duke, and Heather McNamara turn Veronica into one of the popular girls. Veronica soon realizes she isn’t cut out for the lifestyle and turns to new kid/bad boy Jason Dean (JD for short). Crazy parents and hostile students make the journey through her senior year all the more interesting.

It is obvious that the cast and crew of Heathers: The Musical put a lot of time and effort into their show.  Leaving little to improve, there were few errors within this production. Minor errors such as rough microphone transitions, and pausing to remember lines were prevalent but quickly corrected. Lighting was clearly a strong aspect. Quick spotlight changes were smooth and undetected.

Heather Banks did a wonderful job portraying Veronica Sawyer. Winona Ryder was Banks’ inspiration, calling the original Veronica “iconic.” “I didn’t want to create an identical replication but I certainly wanted to respect what she had done so well with,” says Banks. It is obvious Banks spent hours working on becoming Veronica Sawyer and will take you back to September 1st, 1989 with her performance.

JD, played by Jake Wagner, was by far the most in character on stage. His intensity was incredible and intimidating all in one. Wagner personifies teen angst in his performance and pushes those feelings onto the audience. “Meant to Be Yours” was his strongest song, bringing both his vocal and acting talents together perfectly. While Wagner was perfect for the role of the crazy ex-boyfriend, it’s far from his day-to-day life. “It can be tempting to fall into the world of the play, but I firmly believe that acting is just that…an act. Once the lights go down I go right back to being my normal self,” says Wagner.

Lydia Burke invites you into her candy store as the mythic Heather Chandler. Don’t let her perfect hair and smile fool you, behind this well put together character is a high school villain you could only find in a show based in the 80s. Burke did a fantastic job during her performance of “Me Inside of Me,” showing the wide range of emotion Chandler feels. You won’t hear Air Supply while Burke is on stage.

Anna Brockman thoroughly analyzed Heather Duke to prepare for this challenging role. “It would have been easier to play her as a stereotype. But that wouldn’t have done her justice,” says Brockman. Brockman’s analysis definitely improved her character and gave her more depth than Duke is given in other versions of Heathers: The Musical. My only suggestion for Brockman would be to hold out her notes longer and really be free with it (especially in Blue Reprise) as she is obviously a talented vocalist.

Alexandra Johnson played the ditzy Heather McNamara. The cheery cheerleader could not have been portrayed better by anyone. Johnson managed to portray McNamara in her expected ignorant bliss while bringing unexpected vocals to the show. Johnson’s performance would make Elle McLemore proud.

Alyssa Soto will remind you of your kindergarten boyfriend as Martha Dunnstock. Dunnstock is a child-like character, but Soto takes her own spin on the innocence to highlight her kind and forgiving nature. It is very easy to relate to Soto as Dunnstock as she highlights the insecurities felt by many in high school. (And sings them all beautifully.)

Miss Fleming, played by Stephanie Simon, was casted perfectly. Simon did a wonderful job portraying a noisy teacher patronizing bunny rabbits.

Ram Sweeney was played by Nathaniel Lee and Kurt Kelly by Jacob Melssen. The duo will have you laughing all through the night. With a good range of emotions, you won’t leave the theatre feeling blue. Lee and Melssen were wonderful actors separate, but together they were phenomenal.

David Blakeman as Ram’s father and Noah Villareal as Kurt’s father stole the stage during their performance of “My Dead Gay Son,” having strong vocals and even stronger acting abilities. They were double-casted and definitely improved the quality of the ensemble. The ensemble was full of energy and armed with looks to kill.

It should be emphasized that Heathers: The Musical is intended for a mature audience. “There’s violence, cursing, sex–all the things that make theatre fun–but maybe not what you want to bring the little ones to,” says director Tom Robson. Robson adds, “I think it’s a great show for people who know the original movie from the 1980s, but you certainly don’t need to know it at all. The story absolutely stands on its own, and if you’ve never seen Heathers before you will still have a great time. If you have seen the movie, though, you’ll definitely hear some of your favorite lines. Including the one about the chainsaw.”

Heathers: The Musical will be performed in Shilling Hall’s Albert Taylor Theatre, on May 4-7, 2017.