of Chad Batka
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for those who are unfamiliar with The Heathers' story.
Heathers the Musical
, which officially opened last night at New World Stages in NYC, could just be better than the original cult film on which it is based. (I know, I know. As a die hard Heather’s fan, I wasn’t expecting it either.) The musical takes the Heathers story from the deliciously shallow commentary on popularity and “Me Generation” culture to something far more meaningful. The musical manages to avoid the campy pitfalls of 80’s nostalgia, by paying homage but not allowing itself to become satire. It feels contemporary, and oh so relatable. The show's score, written by composers Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness
) and Lawrence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde, Bat Boy
), is ridiculously melodic and catchy. It's also quite beautiful. It’s one of the best scores to hit Off-Broadway in a decade. Scratch that. One of the best scores in a decade, period.
"Heathers" performing at New World Stages in New York. Photo courtesy of Chad Batka
The cast, full of mostly fresh-faced powerhouses, is pure delight. Leading the charge is Barrett Wilbert Weed, who plays Veronica, the nerdy sideliner who becomes swept up in the popular Heathers clique. Wilbert Weed's comic timing and sensitivity give Veronica a level of depth that was lacking in the film. Her voice is indicative of the new guard of Broadway belters: bright, soaring and flat out enchanting. Ryan McCartan who plays JD, may have had one of the casts biggest challenges, taking on the iconic role originated by Christian Slater. He makes the role his own however, finding the perfect balance between hearthrobish charm and unpredictable menace. Wilbert Weed and McCartan have a sizzling chemistry, that make it nearly impossible not to lose yourself in their duets
Our Love is God” and “Seventeen”.
Barrett Wilbert Weed as Veronica, Ryan McCartan as JD & Charissa Hogeland as Heather Chandler. Photo courtesy of Chad Batka
In addition to Wilbert Weed and McCartan, the whole supporting cast really gets a chance to shine. Jessica Keenan Wynn nails the role of ruthless teenage Queen Bee, Heather Chandler. Kennan Wynn’s voice is deceptively rich and just as Heather Chandler did at Westerburg High, she commands your attention whenever she’s onstage. Alice Lee is hysterical as Heather Duke, next in line for popularity glory until Heather Chandler’s untimely demise. She quickly learns that heavy is the head that wears the red Scrunchie. Ellen McLemore as Heather McNamara, cheerleader and the true follower of the group, deftly handles both physical comedy and heartbreaking tenderness with her solo number “Lifeboat”. Evan Todd and Jon Edison are terrific as megajocks Kurt Kelly and Ram Sweeney.
Photo courtesy of Chad Batka
They somehow make these boorish characters rather lovable, elevating them from mere caricatures. Katie Ladner is a real heartbreaker as the sweetly naïve Martha Dunstock, who still carries a torch for Ram Sweeney, a decade after their one and only kiss. Her big number, “Kindergarten Boyfriend” is a sweet, little tearjerker about unrequited love. And flying horses. But mostly love. There isn’t a clunker to be found in the score, and numbers like “My Dead Gay Son” and “Shine a Light” just add to the endless delights that the show has to offer.
There are some really lovely additions to Heathers the Musical
that elevate it from a cautionary tale of following the crowd, to a captivating story about the triumphs and miseries of adolescence. In death, Heather Chandler, Ram and Kurt become ever present in Veronica’s conscience, acting as a Greek chorus of sorts. Veronica and JD’s relationship is shown to be much more that a coalescence of hormones and teenage angst. Theirs is a powerfully consuming thing; perhaps love, definitely obsession. Director Andy Fickman and choreographer Marguerite Derricks create a killer (excuse the pun) picture onstage, bringing out the absolute best in their cast, while Dominick Amendum leads the small but mighty orchestra.
Ryan McCartan as JD and Barrett Wilbert Weed as Veronica. Photo courtesy of Chad Batka
Whether you are a die-hard fan of the film (there were many at the performance I attended) or just a fan of live theatre, Heathers is not to be missed. So put on your best Swatch, raise your cherry Slurpees, and toss your Corn Nuts in celebration for Off-Broadway’s brightest and best new star, Heathers the Musical
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