Heathers: The Musical. New World Stages (see Off Broadway). Book, music and lyrics by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe. Directed by Andy Fickman. With Barrett Wilbert Weed, Ryan McCartan. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.
Heathers: In brief
An unhappy teenager and her rebellious new boyfriend team up to rid their high school of its most popular and toxic students in this musical stage version, cowritten by Laurence O'Keefe (Bat Boy) and Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness), of the hit 1989 dark comedy film. Director Andy Fickman controls the damage.
Heathers: Theater review by David Cote
At the risk of sounding, y’know, bitchy, you sorta know what to expect from a musical based on the 1989 cult movie Heathers. There will be the three titular mean girls, a fat gal cruelly nicknamed Martha Dumptruck and a father grimly eulogizing his “dead gay son.” You hope there won’t be cheesy Winona Ryder or Christian Slater impressions, but you’re fully prepared for a score that parodies ’80s pop as well as shoulder-padded costumes from the late Reagan years. What I didn’t foresee—and found utterly delightful—was a depth of feeling and a lyrical polish that elevate the material above a retro goof.
Heathers: The Musical has a book and score (by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe) filled with well-crafted songs and inspired comic lyrics. The team can confidently juggle raunch (a doo-wop number about blue balls) with a plangent ode to fading youth (“Seventeen”). In fact, this is the first musical I can remember since Spring Awakening to capture the pain and ecstasy of being a teen.
Weed (great pipes and fresh comedy chops) is marvelous as eternally sarcastic Veronica, the smart girl who longs to strut alongside the Heathers (Jessica Keenan Wynn, Elle McLemore and Alice Lee, all gorgeous poison). McCartan smolders nicely as J.D., the trench-coated outsider who manipulates Veronica into abetting his psycho killing spree.
“High school doesn’t end,” an injured but wiser Veronica sings late in the show, realizing that it’s (OMFG) actual training for the real world. Sassy, sexy and oh-so-smart, Heathers deserves to run with the popular crowd.—Theater review by David Cote
THE BOTTOM LINE We give this musical adaptation a solid A.
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote
Despite my age, I had never seen the movie, hadn't heard anything about the music, and didn't know what to expect. I was absolutely blown away.
The music and lyrics are powerful and organic; they don't come across as forced, i.e. the way they sound in some musicals when it seems as though their writers were just looking to write another song to move the plot forward.
The cast was sensational too, and the lead actresses were stellar. I still can't figure out what kind of name Barrett Wilbert Weed is :), but as Veronica she just rocked the stage with terrific acting and amazing vocal range. The theater is cozy, but I felt like I was really "on Broadway" when I heard her bring the magic.
As soon as you experience her and think, oh, well they got lucky finding that one, though, you find yourself bowled over by another and another. Jessica Keenan Wynn (the main Heather?) just dominates the room when it's her turn, and delivers similar power with her vocals. Even the woman who plays the underdog friend Martha (I just looked her name up: Katie Ladner) gets a turn to shine vocally late in the show and makes the wait absolutely worth it.
I could go on and on; the men's roles weren't as front-and-center given the plot (except for JD, who was also fabulous), but they were no less polished or powerful; some of them played multiple roles, and by the end each stood out for one element of his performance or another. (I just went and looked up Anthony Crivello; you don't expect to see him much given that he seems to be playing a chorus character at the beginning, but he comes front and center in the second half (?) in another role and just brings the heat, along with another guy (Daniel Cooney) in a similar role.)
Ok. I guess that's more than enough. I can't say enough great things about this show. I know that some of the reviews found something here or there to critique, but given the subject matter and the threading of the needle necessary to pull this story off on stage and as a musical--and one that sends you home happy and not miserable--they did masterful work. I really want to go back and see it again!