I was lucky to get a seat in the front row at the Novato Theater Company presentation of this hilarious rock musical, where I could get a clear view of the meticulously-designed sparse set by Sofia Cassidy and master carpenter Mark Clark, with perfect lighting design was by Harrison Moye, the production of which was coordinated with Marin Summer Theater. There were 3 platforms across the stage for the action with 3 steps in front of each, and in the back of each platform was a screen with very large drawings of three different heads superimposed on them.
Not recommended for audience members under the age of 16, Heathers: The Musical is an ominous (realistic, yet funny) tale of high-school intrigue around a non-conforming, bright, and pretty student Veronica Sawyer (disarmingly played by the well-cast Maya Scherer) when she pushes herself into the center of a cruel clique at Westerburg High: The Heathers, led by Heather Chandler (the main character, devilishly performed by Angel Wilensky). At the same time Veronica is making inroads into the Heathers (a group of 3 students, each named Heather), she finds herself wildly attracted to the irresistible and sexually magnetic JD (ably portrayed by Jesse Northen). Veronica’s intentions are challenged by Heather Chandler, and JD steps into the mix with his own intentions.
The teenage kings and queens of the prom the homecoming, and the party – the golden boys and girls, who taunt and belittle the smart and sensitive – have become first-choice villains in contemporary pop culture. They’re the winners we love to hate and one of the last minority groups (along with their parents) – the one percent acceptable to savagely mock. Are there any souls out there brave enough to admit they were that kind of popular in high school? Ok – maybe. But for leading character Heather Chandler, we see that ultimately wasn’t a good high school leadership role for her. Heathers: The Musical is the latest entertainment to capitalize on this (satisfying) loathing to play at NTC between July 20 and July 30th.
Heathers: The Musical is a nostalgic commentary for a more innocent time – when a plot about killing off high school royalty wasn’t quite-so-sick as a sick joke. In a way, this latest incarnation is to the 1980s what Grease was to the 1950s when it was first staged in the 1970s.
The 1st Act in the NTC production was skillfully sloppy as it arranged the cool kids with jokes, excellent rock music (directed by Jennifer Huang) and outstanding choreography by Melinda Murray.
In the 2nd Act, the show turned seriously dark – almost apologizing for any untoward pleasure it may have afforded us before as it ricocheted between exaggerated antics and conciliatory gestures.
The book, music, and lyrics for Heathers: The Musical were written, composed, and created by Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness and Defiance) Laurence O’Keefe (Bat Boy and Legally Blonde) with the Broadway (and traveling) productions directed and produced by Andy Fickman. Heathers: The Musical is based on the Daniel Waters screenplay for the 1988 black comedy film directed by Michael Lehmann, Heathers, which died at the box office but had a flourishing after-life in cult heaven and is said to be the greatest teen comedy of all time. The NTC production is starring a young untarnished Veronica Sawyer and heartthrob JD, whereas in Michael Lehmann’s film presented its leading heart-throb is an exterminating angel specializing in bratty rich kids.
The movie is darker and more daring than the NTC production could possibly present. This production was well-directed by Patrick Nims, and along with the 3 title-characters, Veronica (Maya Scherer), JD (Jesse Northen), and Heather Chandler (Angel Wilensky) played with appropriately expansive fits of manic rage, it featured a capable and buoyant cartoon-like cast: Heather Duke (Lily Hahn), Heather McNamera (McCall Brinskele), Martha Dunstock (Elizabeth Faber), Kurt Kelly (Andrew Pryor Ramirez), and Ram Sweeney (Marco Simental). The excellent Ensemble Cast included Priana Aquino, Christopher Horton, Dylan Kupper, Ambrosia Lobo, Daniel Manzo, Michael Marthinsen, Yovanni Martinez, Serena Poggi, and Elena Shoen.
The entire production would have been more easily digestible if it were at least 30 min shorter (not that the audience seemed to mind). Judging by the standing ovation and cheering, Heathers: The Musical was a resounding success for the audience.
Kudos go to the wonderful technical staff. The excellent lighting design was by Harrison Moye; marvelous costumes, hair and makeup designs by Jillian Eichenberger; excellent sound design by Simon Eves; and Properties Master, Marina Nims.
Coming up next at NTC, September 7-24, 2017, is the 2017-2018 Season Opener Rumors, written by Neil Simon and directed by Trevor Scott Floyd.
Flora Lynn Isaacson