Before there were “The Plastics” of Mean Girls’ fame, there was another cruel clique prowling high school halls and making life a living-hell for anyone who wasn’t "in": The Heathers. The 1988 Daniel Waters’ cult film has been reimagined as a musical stage show by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, and brings Heather Chandler (Jessica Keenan Wynn), Heather McNamara (Elle McLemore) and Heather Duke (Alice Lee) to life at New World Stages.
"Beautiful," the opening number performed by the show’s lead character, Veronica (Barrett Wilbert Weed), immediately transports the audience back to the hellish high school halls everyone is sure to remember complete with over the top, high school musical-esque stereotyped characters, and names like “Stoner Chick” and “Young Republicanette” in the cast list. During the song, you’re introduced to Ram and Kurt, typical high schools jocks on the football team, as well as Heather, Heather and Heather -- rulers of Westerberg High. With clever lyrics and laugh-out loud funny lines (the term “smartest guy on the football team” is compared to “the tallest dwarf”), the show instantly sets the stage for an enjoyable evening full of laughter.
Heathers tells the story of misfit Veronica who suddenly finds herself accepted by the hottest, hippest group of girls in her school. Things are looking up for Veronica, with her newfound popularity and a new love interest -- the mysteriously dark and sexy new kid, Jason “J.D.” Dean (Ryan McCartan). But eventually things turn sour, and while Veronica resigns herself to fading back into obscurity or begging for forgiveness at the Heathers' feet, J.D. has other, more sinister plans for the Heathers. He wants them dead.
With subject matter including date rape, suicide, murder and eating disorders, this show certainly deals with a lot. A comedy through and through, there were times when laughing at these topics seemed a little off -- but the writing was so great and the joke delivery so spot on that the audience was left with little choice but to laugh along. That’s not to say that there weren’t beautifully acted serious moments as well, like when Veronica sings pleadingly, “Can we be 17?” or the haunting way that Wilbert Weed can go from bitch mode to crying with the flip of a switch. McCartan’s J.D. is eerie, which is exactly what the role calls for. And as the Heathers, Wynn, McLemore and Lee are simply delightful.
The show moves along wonderfully, with no dull stretches to be spoken of. Complex costumes, sets and designs are unnecessary due to the strength of the script and lyrics of the songs. Though the music isn’t anything life-changing, there are some that you’ll find stuck in your head, like “Seventeen” and “Dead Girl Walking.” The cast sings the songs well, though at times Wilbert Weed can get dangerously close to screaming the lyrics instead of belting them.
The entire show is over the top in its premise, yet the production manages to avoid becoming ridiculous and overly dramatic. A strong cast delivers hysterical lines that you’ll remember for a long time while still leaving you with some moving moments. Heathers is a wonderful 2 hours and 10 minutes where audience members can remember those high school insecurities and hormones and be thankful that they never have to go back!
Heathers: The Musical plays at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street) on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday and 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit http://heathersthemusical.com.