It’s only been within the last 10 years that I watched HEATHERS for the first time. Ironically enough, my mom, who isn’t known for being the biggest fan of films that showcase excessive violence, was the one who showed me the movie. She herself is a fan of the film, and though it was my first time watching the cult-classic, I had known about its existence for quite some time. Recently, it was brought to my attention that a musical parody of HEATHERS existed and luckily for me, I didn’t have to look far to find a performance!
For those not familiar with HEATHERS THE MUSICAL, or the film, the fine folks over at Klubhouse Arts gave a terrific summary of what their show entails:
“HEATHERS THE MUSICAL is the darkly delicious story of Veronica Sawyer, a brainy, beautiful teenage misfit who hustles her way into the most powerful and ruthless clique at Westerberg High: the Heathers. But before she can get comfortable atop the high school food chain, Veronica falls in love with the dangerously sexy new kid J.D. When Heather Chandler, the Almighty, kicks her out of the group, Veronica decides to bite the bullet and kiss Heather’s aerobicized ass...but J.D. has another plan for that bullet. HEATHERS THE MUSICAL is a hilarious, heartfelt, and homicidal new show based on the greatest teen comedy of all time. With its moving love story, laugh-out-loud comedy, and unflinching look at the joys and anguish of high school, HEATHERS is sure to win you over. Are you in or are you out?”
Combining a tremendous live performance mixed with cheeky song lyrics and immersive elements, HEATHERS THE MUSICAL has become one of my favorite experiences of the year. I have found myself becoming more and more of a fan of introducing immersive elements into theatrical shows as I think it’s a great way to introduce people to what immersive is. In regards to HEATHERS THE MUSICAL, these immersive elements were very light and mostly centered around interaction with the audience, which mainly happened at the beginning of the show.
The pre-show allowed the audience to become familiar with the characters as they made their way around the stage and in and throughout the audience seating. My boyfriend and I had a blast interacting with the high school football coach as well as Jo, the goth girl that everyone was afraid of. This element really allowed for more personal engagement and though it didn’t happen often, it was enough to make guests feel as if they were a part of the show. Those who didn’t want to interact were given the option of wearing a mask which signaled that they were just there to watch the show. I think having both options available was a great way to make people feel comfortable and if any of the guests weren’t sure what the immersive aspect was, there was always someone on staff who was happy to explain things further.
As for the show itself, both my boyfriend and I were blown away. The performances were nothing short of superb, with each actor really digging into their character and giving it their all. The humor and the songs went hand in hand so well that at any given moment you could hear someone (or the whole audience) in uproarious laughter. There was never a dull moment throughout the almost three hour runtime which I found to be rather impressive. These actors were beyond passionate in what they were doing and you could see it through each and every song and dance routine that they did. As for Veronica and the Heathers themselves - the casting director couldn’t have picked better actors to embody these recognizable characters both in their physical appearance and attitudes as they delivered such classic lines as “Fuck me gently with a chainsaw” and “What’s your damage, Heather?”. However, most impressive was the ability of the entire cast to transform the space, with minimal props and set dressing, so that the audience felt as though they were back in the 80’s.
Also, having not seen the movie in such a long time, I never realized just how relevant some of the issues were, especially those surrounding bullying, homophobia, and fat-shaming. With this show being so up-beat it’s easy to brush off the lyrics and bop your head to the tunes, but the songs and dark humor that permeate throughout the show deal with heavy topics that we should all be paying attention too. My only critique of the show was that at times it was hard to hear, and I know these actors were belting out every note they could, but I don’t think the space lent itself properly to the acoustics. The use of hand-free mics might be just what the show needs so that everyone can follow along without straining to hear.
All in all, HEATHERS THE MUSICAL is a must-see show, and though the run has come to an end at Klubhouse Arts, I would highly suggest keeping your eyes and ears open for any and all performances from this trope. I’m beyond grateful that I had the chance to check it out, especially with my boyfriend who has such love for the film, as it reminded me just how badass the movie truly is. I also want to applaud the stage managers for giving those not familiar with the film a head’s up in regards to the violence and gun use. I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes at this, but with all that’s going on in the world I think it was a smart way to address an issue and let those in attendance know that they are safe. HEATHERS is a film that I don’t think we will see again for a long, long time, which makes the fact that there is a musical all the more satisfying.