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By: Sandi Durell
Well, kids, it’s another high school pop musical – as black a comedy as one can imagine (or not). This one based on the 1989 cult movie, brought Winona Ryder and Christian Slater (who recently saw this) to the fore. If you’re interested in bullying, brutalizing and crude, and seeing kids at their lowest level of behavior, this one’s for you!
The three devilish Heathers rule the roost at Westerburg High in Ohio, making mush meat of anyone who doesn’t fit their standards as they prance, dance and flit in sweet little military style costumes of short short skirts, shoulder padded jackets and high high knee socks in rowdy bad behavior. (costumes Amy Clark) If you were listening to the hoots and laughter of the young audience (many friends and theater kids), you’d think it was the second coming.
The leader of the pack and evilest, Heather Chandler (usually played by Jessica Keenan Wynn, but played at the performance I saw by understudy Charissa Hogeland), is accompanied by two other Heathers, – McNamara (Elle McLemore – who has one of the funniest moments in the show when she’s trying to commit suicide and a mouthful of pills keeps tumbling out) and Duke (sassy over the top Alice Lee). These three bitchy girls are closely followed by two jocks Ram (Jon Eidson) and Kurt (Evan Todd) who gladly do their bidding. They all exclude anyone who doesn’t fit their criteria, especially overweight, smart Martha – whom they’ve renamed Martha Dumptruck (Katie Ladner).
However, when the Heathers learn that Veronica (Barrett Wilbert Weed – now that’s a name and the star of this production with a rich lovely voice), who is not only a nice caring girl, but is good at forgery, they induce her to join their clique. She surely doesn’t seem to care about their kind of popularity, and yet she succumbs, but not for long as soon after, she can’t take them all any longer and is looking for a way out. Enter, an appealing J.D. Dean (from TV’s “LIv and Maddie”) in black raincoat, who underplays his role as a killer with righteous beliefs, and devises methods of popping off one after another. He and Veronica have a love thing going as she joins his revenge but not for long as her moral ethics kick in.
The book, music and lyrics are by Kevin Murphy & Laurence O’Keefe (based on the film by Daniel Waters). The music is loud and the lyrics – well, think of every foul mouthed word and idea and you’ve got it! I do believe the writers were unable to get through one song without the use of a 4-letterer. To accompany those lyrics are gestures and directorial choices by Andy Fickman that don’t fall short of pornographic (with clothes mostly on) and uninspired choreography by Marguerite Derricks.
Credit, however, does go to a high energy and talented cast.
Listening and watching Heathers, I couldn’t help but think about the song “Class” from Chicago – – “whatever happened to fair dealing and pure ethics and nice manners? Why is it everyone now is a pain in the Ass? Whatever happened to class? . . . There ain’t no ladies now there’s only pigs and whores and even kids’ll knock you down . . . Nobody’s got no class!!! . . . And any girl will touch your privates for a deuce . . . ain’t there no deceny left? . . . “
From my standpoint, the bar gets lower and lower . . . the dumbing down of theater is upon us moving along at rapid pace!
Heathers the Musical – New World Stages 350 West 50th St. 212 239-6200 2 hrs. 10 minutes.
Photos: Chad Batka