Dark comedy sings
Musical version of cult classic at the Blue Room
By the time I was old enough to watch R-rated films, I got the movie Heathers on VHS. And I wore that thing out. I mean, come on. J.D. (Christian Slater) was so mysteriously handsome, and the angst onscreen was just so … very.
As a fan of the film, I was eager to see how it would translate to the stage for the Blue Room Theatre/WhimZ Productions co-presentation of Heathers The Musical. Verdict: It’s big fun, but in a strange way.
First off, Heathers is a dark comedy. So, adding musical numbers and dance routines just felt wrong. Yet despite my apprehensions, I’ll admit the cast at the Saturday night (Oct. 14) performance made it feel pretty right. Second, there’s no update, with the exception of some changing of brand names (i.e., the Snappy Snack Shack is now a 7-Eleven and the site of a song about Slurpees—“Freeze Your Brain”), which felt jarringly like product placement. But, the musical still takes place in 1989, and it’s quaint in that way—the 1980s outfits are rad!
The play, like the movie, takes place in Sherwood, Ohio, and focuses on students at Westerburg High. There, you have your standard cliques: nerds, jocks, intellectuals. And then you have The Heathers, the girls who rule the school. Heather Chandler (played by Kelsi Fossum-Trausch, who also choreographed the production) is the queen bitch. Her ladies in waiting are Heathers McNamara (Katherine O’Day) and Duke (Kaila Davidson).
The play is narrated by the character Veronica (Sierra Hall), a nerd who sneaks her way into the Heathers’ clique with her forgery skills and seemingly has it made, despite having to ditch her BFF, Martha Dunnstock (nickname: Martha Dumptruck, played by Hannah Davies), and keep company with the likes of Kurt and Ram, the school’s two biggest (asshole) jocks. When Veronica turns down a raunchy proposition, the football players sing the evening’s highlight, “Blue” (“You make my balls so blue … What did they do to you?”).
The guys who play Kurt and Ram (JoJo Judge and Jaquan Sayres, respectively) were a ton of fun to watch, their enthusiasm—as dickish as it is—was completely infectious.
The final main character in the play/film is the trenchcoat-clad J.D. (Mickey Layson), who’s just transferred to Westerburg and immediately attracts the attention of Veronica. Their love story is a tragic one, filled with depression, anger, and murder dressed up to look like suicide.
Hall, a senior in high school, not only looks like Winona Ryder (the film’s Veronica), she also captures her diction to a “T,” delivering classic lines like “Lick it up, baby … lick … it … up” with perfect cadence. She is, by far, the star of this production. Her partner in crime, Layson, is also quite good—he certainly looks the part and delivers some strong solos. But he misses some of the nuance of lines like “The extreme always seems to make an impression.” Recited by Slater, that line made it into my teenage quote book. From Layson, though, it kind of fizzled.
As for the Heathers, they all deliver strong performances, though Fossum-Trausch’s huge platinum-blonde wig might have been a bit much. Also of note is the Westerburg High School Band (featuring members of local jazz crew Bogg), which was fantastic, though a little loud, at times drowning out the singers.
All in all, a fun adaptation of a cult classic.