Saturday, March 29, 2014

Heathers: The Musical @ New World Stages Stage 1

Hold onto your hats 80’s cult movie fans! A new musical adaptation of your favorite 80’s movie Heathers has been turned into a stage musical and is the must see Off-Broadway production of the 2014 season! Filled with memorable songs, a hilarious script and ridiculously talented cast, Heathers: The Musical restores your faith in the theatre world’s ability to take a known movie title and transfer it into a success stage production.

Heathers: The Musical, which features a book, music and lyrics by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe, is essentially your Mean Girls of the 1980s. Its September 1989 at Westerberg High School and the entire school is being terrorized by the “Heathers”. These girls manage to get away with just about anything until newcomer J.D. Dean comes along and decides to put them in their place. With the help of Veronica Sawyer, together J.D. and Veronica help destroy the high school society’s they know only to learn even more things they wish they never knew in this hilarious new musical loving ripped off of the screenplay of the same title by Daniel Waters. There is major credit that needs to be given to Murphy and O’Keefe who have just landed an A plus across the board when it comes to the score and script with this production. The focus is clear. The piece moves very well and you never find yourself waiting for another musical number. Oh, about the musical numbers. They deliver memorable song after memorable song with a score of A plus tunes. You can tell O’Keefe has put his classic charming touch onto the songs with it being about something ridiculous only to come across with a lyric that smacks you right in the face. “You are the only right thing about this broken world” sticks out in my mind.

Barrett Wilbert Weed stars as Veronica Sawyer and gives a stand out performance with strong acting choices and solid vocals throughout the entire piece. She is a knockout and clear force of talent. Weed wins you over from the very beginning as she narrates her journey from average girl to Heather sidekick to God or Gods unwilling assistant as her and J.D. takes matters into their own hands over time. Speaking of, J.D. Dean played by Ryan McCartan is a strong force to be reckoned with as the productions leading man. He makes bold acting choices throughout the pieces and also enjoys some really beautiful moments throughout the score. Weed and McCartan share a beautiful chemistry on stage you can’t help but love.

The Heathers, played by Jessica Keenan Wynn (Heather Chandler), Elle McLemore (Heather McNamara) and Alice Lee (Heather Duke) are over the top ridiculous in all the ways you want them to be. From their first entrance to songs like “Candy Store”, they are your quintessential plastics of high school. They’re so evil in what they do; you can’t help but love them. Evan Todd who stars as Kurt and Jon Eidson who stars as Ram deliver hilarious performances as your typical high school jocks. They’re over the top choices and ridiculous antics show just how far we’ve come since the 1980’s but the nonsense we can still manage to get away with in high school.

The ensemble is filled with all of your typical high school stereotypes (Nerds, Goth, Cheerleaders) that also double as adult roles throughout the piece. The ensemble is consistently present but not in the way where they become bothersome or distracting. They only add to the story with their vocals and help bring to life some of the largest and most vibrant numbers of the entire production.

Heathers: The Musical not only scores when it comes to the production’s talent but also it’s technical elements. Timothy R. Mackabee provides a simple and yet adequate scenic design that allows for characters to move freely about and doesn’t leave us crammed for when it comes to the bigger production numbers. Amy Clark gives us a beautiful costume design and Jonny Massena’s sound design is spot on when it comes to not only mixing in the band with the vocals but for the special cues as well. The be all to end all of the technical elements is the ridiculous lighting design provided by Jason Lyons. His lighting designs shines (No pun intended) as bright as the stars themselves or even brighter as he hits you with cue after cue of rolling effects, beautiful mixes and fantastic marks.

Do yourself a favor and make sure to get to experience Heathers: The Musical now in performances at New World Stages. It will restore your faith in musical theatre film adaptations but more importantly, it will restore your faith in theatre. Heathers not only brings to life a hilarious cult movie on the stage but an important topic in society with youngsters and how we define ourselves. While I’ll let them be sure to teach you everything you need to know, all you need to know from me is that like the anthem of this production, it is Beautiful.

Review By: Chris Luner

Photos By: Chad Batka

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