Heathers the Musical is the hottest show off-Broadway. Graphics for the show are all over the internet so I decided to take the plunge and find out who those three mallet wielding, mini skirt wearing girls are and why they seem to be taking the theatrical world by storm.
My first stop was to check out the 1989 movie on which the new musical is based. Initially a box office flop but now a cult classic, Heathers is noted as one of the best high school based films around. The plot centres around seventeen year old Veronica who, at the opening of the movie, has successfully secured a place in the most powerful and feared clique in Westerburg High School: the Heathers. Beautiful and wealthy, the trio consists of Heather, Heather and (yep, you’ve guessed it) Heather. Regardless of her new-found power, Veronica quickly grows tired of the Heathers’ behaviour and, teaming up with the rebellious JD, decides to punish one of the Heathers who recently vowed to destroy Veronica’s reputation after she embarrassed the clique at a significant party. Heather’s punishment is death and a quickly forged suicide note is enough to throw suspicion away from Veronica and JD. The plot thickens with deception and additional deaths; Veronica ultimately escaping the evil glares of the Heathers and righting wrongs along the way. The plot may be extreme and unlikely but elements of the film are still relevant today and perhaps this is why the musical is proving to be such a hit with off-Broadway audiences.
Video footage is limited but the promotional photographs for the off-Broadway production are enough to convince that the show is easy on the eyes. Costumes are reminiscent of the eighties whilst remaining surprisingly trendy and edgy. The staging is minimalistic and modern.
Heathers the Musical‘s newly released cast recording boasts a collection of 20 songs, each track as strong as the previous. The book and lyrics were written by Kevin Murphy, the score was composed by Laurence O’Keefe (creator of Legally Blonde the Musical). Opening with ‘Beautiful,’ the show quickly summarises Veronica’s assent to power with convenient narration through Veronica’s diary entries. The audience is quickly introduced to the pre-Heathers Veronica who is somewhat “dorky” and therefore rendered as uncool amongst fellow high school students, several of whom are introduced in this number. The Heathers arrive and are duly introduced before they take Veronica under their wing and suitably make her over to become the fourth Heather. By the end of the number it seems we have already experienced an entire musical but anyone familiar with the storyline knows that this is just the beginning. ‘Candy Store’ displays the Heathers’ manipulation of power and marks the first of several frustratingly catchy numbers in the show. ‘Seventeen’ stands out as a significant duet between Veronica and JD yet it seems impossible to select an individual song as the stand out moment of Heathers the Musical. Each song continues to contribute to the overall impact of the cast recording which is incredibly easy to follow without any visual aids.
Barrett Wilbert Weed is outstanding as Veronica, her dialogue often sounding fascinatingly identical to Winona Ryder’s movie delivery over twenty years ago. Jessica Keenan Wynn gives a fantastic vocal performance as the ringleader of the Heathers meanwhile Anthony Crivello and Daniel Cooney threaten to steal the show with their rendition of ‘My Dead Gay Son.’Heathers the Musical will reconnect with the original target generation of Heathers and will also capture the hearts of younger generations. With the score on occasions sounding reminiscent of Legally Blonde the Musical it is guaranteed that any fans of modern musicals will appreciate this dark comedy of crime, relationships and popularity within the confinements of a clique-driven American high school.