by Bailey Blaker
Michael Lehmann’s 1989 cult film Heathers, starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, puts a delightfully sinister twist on classic high-school melodrama. With the addition of over a dozen energy-filled songs, Brave Potato’s production of Heathers the Musical offers audiences so much more.
The production opens tonight at 8 p.m. in the Black Box, and runs Friday at 9:30 p.m. and Saturday at 8 p.m.
A bloody banner that reads “Go Westerberg,” which is equally foreboding and ironic given the play’s content, looms over the entire show. Heathers the Musical tells the story of Veronica Sawyer, a high school senior in search of acceptance through her friendship with Westerberg High’s most popular clique, the Heathers. Blood is spilled after her new boyfriend Jason “JD” Dean, the new kid at school, turns out not to be as he first appears.
Under the direction of Zoe Case ’18, the show presents itself as a hybrid between Grease and Mean Girls, with a little Dexter thrown in.
The show may be set in the 1980s, but the struggles of adolescence as seen through the eyes of Westerburg High’s student body still ring true today.
The cast, which features Ríoghnach Robinson ’16 as Veronica Sawyer and Luca Agunos ’18 as JD, is small but mighty.
The musical numbers create a more compelling narrative over the course of the play than what appears in its cinematic counterpart. They increase the psychological development of key characters like JD and give the audience a complete sense of the emotional state of Westerberg’s student body.
The songs “Freeze Your Brain” and “Our Love is God” showcase one of the strongest features of the production: Its ability to supply a philosophical commentary in the context of everyday life.
“Freeze Your Brain,” performed by Agunos, reveals the dark despair at the core of JD’s character and is surprisingly moving for a ballad about 7-Eleven. In a similar fashion, “Our Love is God” conveys the psychological development of Veronica and JD’s romance over the entire production in only a few minutes.
Robinson’s anthem throughout the play, “Dead Girl Walking,” at one point represents a desperate plea for acceptance and at another is a redemptive revenge song that transforms Veronica from the quintessential teen girl in search of popularity into Westerberg’s unlikely heroine.
With a party scene that includes everything from a keg to an inflatable kiddie pool, humor is in abundance. Jasmine Spearman ’18 and Kevin Towle’s ’19 performances as Ram Sweeney and Kurt Kelly, respectively, are exceptional. Their duet “Blue,” a rock-ballad about sexual frustration, is wickedly funny.
Performing a show with such a larger-than-life cast in the Black Box Theater presents some challenges. At times the chorus stands almost knee-to-knee with audience members. The limited size of the stage and the close proximity to the audience do not allow for fluid scene changes.
No matter what your “damage” is, Heathers the Musical offers something for everyone. All three shows are sold out, though students can still sign up for the waitlist and, after witnessing the spectacle that is Heathers the Musical, I can see why.