Cast of Heathers: The Musical
(Photo credit: Chad Batka)
‘You make my balls feel so blue,’ lyrics from “Blue” sung by two overgrown actors wearing high school varsity jackets, is a representative sequence from Heathers: The Musical. Depending on one’s sensibilities it’s either hysterical or cringe-worthy.
Laurence O’Keefe came to prominence by writing the score for the 2001 Off Broadway musical parody Bat Boy: The Musical. On Broadway, he scored 2007’s musical version of the movie Legally Blonde. Kevin Murphy co-wrote the book and lyrics for the musical adaptation of the 1936 anti-drug camp classic film, Reefer Madness,
that briefly ran Off-Broadway in 2001. Now they have combined forces to musicalize Heathers.
A box office failure upon its theatrical release in 1989, it was directed by Michael Lehman from Daniel Walters’ original screenplay. Through various home media editions, it later became a cult movie. Set in a small Ohio town it starred stalwart Winona Ryder and black trench coated Christian Slater as high school outcasts causing violent mayhem against the in-crowd. Its self-conscious deadpan hyperbolic satirical tone dramatized murderous revenge fantasies no doubt shared by many who felt ostracized. Ironically used wistful cover versions of “Que Sera, Sera,” performed by Syd Straw and Sly and The Family Stone, was played during the opening and closing credits.
Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Murphy have done inspired work in translating the original material into a stage musical. The book closely follows and skillfully condenses the events of the film. Retained is the situation of the three garish vipers that are each named Heather and cleverly added is the device of murder victims returning as ghosts.
The score often sounds generic but its professionalism is evident. In addition to “Blue,” “Freeze Your Brain” about slushees, the hilariously revelatory “My Dead Gay Son,” and the achingly suicidal “Lifeboat” are catchy highlights.
As the complex heroine Veronica Sawyer, Barrett Wilbert Weed is forceful, charming and carries the show with her intensity and depth. As her disaffected cohort J.D., Ryan McCartan is charismatically appealing and shines in several dramatic and comedic numbers. Their solid teamwork keeps the show from being a totally overblown superficial parody.
Ryan McCartan as J.D. and Barrett Wilbert Weed
as Veronica in a scene from Heathers: The
(Photo credit: Chad Batka)
The rest of the 15-member cast all has their moments of performing glory in their cartoon-like roles.
Andy Fickman’s direction purposefully serves the material well blending mirth with occasional drama. The flamboyantly accomplished choreography by Marguerite Derricks is a vital asset.
The vibrant simple set by Timothy R. Mackabee, Amy Clark’s lively 80’s style costumes (shoulder pads galore), 80’s big hair wigs and florid makeup by Leah J. Loukas, and Jason Lyons’ expert lighting all make the show visually engaging. Music director Dominick Amendum and sound designer Johnny Massena keep everything aurally modulated without sacrificing bombast.
Heathers: The Musical ably captures the spirit of the movie and can be enjoyed by fans as well as first timers. Like most spoof shows, the level of enjoyment is dependent on one’s taste and particular sense of humor.
Heathers: The Musical (open run)
New World Stages, 340 W. 50th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit http://www.telecharge.com
Running time: two hours and 15 minutes including one intermission