Heathers: The Musical
Review by Susie Conte
WAAPA’s first Musical Theatre production for the year is a bold choice. Heathers: The Musical is a rock musical with music, lyrics, and book by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy based on the 1988 cult film Heathers. The show, while a comedy, deals with issues of teen suicide, bullying, homophobia, and gun violence. All shoulder pads and big hair, the production is a touching one. Directed by Andrew Lewis, the musical is a big puppy of a show, poking fun at high school while highlighting serious issues. The staging was slick, and I was impressed by the choreography of set changes and movement. WAAPA is renowned for their musical theatre graduates who go on to great things, and this Final year cohort should do the same. They are a talented and professional young group of singers and dancers.
Veronica (Monique Warren) is a girl who just wants to be part of the gang, any gang. The first song “Beautiful” is an opener to her world, where everyone in high school stays in their cliques and the beautiful ones bully the rest. Warren is a belter of a singer and has an amazing stage presence. She is the heart and soul of this show, and handles it with an aplomb that belies her age. Veronica manages to get an in with the ‘Heathers,’ three vacuous girls named Heather who rule the school. They are played by the trifecta of Jenna Curran, the leader of the pack, Meg McKibbin as the beta, and Daisy Valerio as the baby of the group who is the lowest on their totem pole (and told to shut up a lot). Their entrances are punctuated by poses and an awestruck hush from their peers. Curran as the alpha bitch is brilliant, who continually annoys Veronica, even after her unfortunate death. Veronica has a hand in killing her at the urging of her new boyfriend JD (Nick Errol – with Christian Slater hair, a black trenchcoat and a psychotic look in his eye). The quarterbacks are all ego and bluster, but with a dark edge – played by David Cuny and Tom Gustard – and spend half the show in their white jocks. Their death is a shock, but they continue to appear as part of Veronica’s conscience.
Laura Jackson, as the sweet and ‘padded’ Martha Dunnstock is the moral centre and the person Veronica has to come back to when she steps away from the madness. Jackson’s song “Kindergarten Boyfriend” is sweet and touching. Their final duet reprisal of “Seventeen” made me cry.
The songs have titles such as “Blue” (referencing the blue balls the quarterbacks get when the girls refuse to ‘service’ them), “Freeze your Brain” (about slurpee brain freezes) and “My Dead Gay Son.” They are irreverent and very funny, and are juxtaposed with more moving songs such as “Lifeboat” and “Seventeen.” They perfectly encapsulate the feelings of discontented and disenfranchised teenagers. The teachers at the school have no power to stop what is happening, but they are kind and try to help. Mackenzie Dunn as Ms Fleming, in oversized clothes and big glasses, has a popular show stopping turn singing “Shine a Light.” The staging hides an eight piece orchestra, and the live music is such a pleasure to hear, adding a tangible layer to the singing. The backdrop of projections of the high school were a clever and innovative way of setting the scene.
The ensemble worked well to create their own characters and surround the main cast with colourful interactions. A huge congratulations to all involved. A bold and fun choice to open 2017 at WAAPA.