Taking cult movies to the stage is not an easy task. One can see how difficult it is this week alone as I watched “Midnight Cowboy” on one of our stages and tonight, the Chicago premiere of “Heathers: The Musical”. This cult piece is known as a dark “mean teen” film of the 1980’s. The film itself was first seen in 1988 and from what I am told, there is a generation of people out there who love the film and its message. As I drove home through the snow amid the detour for the tearing up of the famous overpass on Western Avenue (from Roscoe to south of Belmont), I thought about what the book or story by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe (they also wrote the lyrics and music) really taught us. I felt “nothing”. I did not like most of the characters. I felt sorry for many others and the story itself was not one that I felt comfortable with. The talent was solid, though.
This is the story of a high school senior, Veronica Sawyer (Courtney Mack is a true find. She has one powerhouse of a voice and can act as well), who is both smart and adorable, but is not “in” with the “in-crowd”. This being her last year in high school and wanting one of the better colleges to admit her, she decides to hustle her way into the “in-crowd” at Westerberg High School. This group is made up of three very beautiful girls who are all named Heather (thus the name “Heathers”). They are brought to life (snobs and spoiled brats, each and every one) by Rochelle Therrien, Jaquelyne Jones and Hayley Jane Schafer. Veronica’s best friend Martha (deftly handled by Teressa LaGamba) is the true “outsider”. She is the heavy-set girl with a great personality and a desire to fit in more than anything else in the world.
As Veronica works her way into the group by being able to forge documents, and then meets the new kid in the school, J.D.( Chris Ballou plays this role with the charm and pizzazz that would set a teen-age girl off her path as easily as the Big Bad Wolf did with Little Red Ridinghood). She falls in love immediately! What takes place after this is his teaching her how to get even with those who get in her way. This begins when the Heathers start spreading rumors and gossip about Veronica’s alleged sexual prowess with two of the bully football players (played to perfection by Denzel Tsopnang and Garrett Lutz). I do not want to tell you much more as there is some true mystery and lots of surprises in this two act rock musical that has some pretty songs, but ones you will not be humming as you leave the intimate stage two at Theater Wit.
The show is smoothly directed by James Beaudry with some solid choreography by Sawyer Smith. Kory Danielson and his musicians do a great job of making the music work with the ensemble and players, never drowning them out. Ashley Ann Woods’ set design is one that fits what this production sets out to do. Move the pace quickly and allow the set pieces to serve many purposes. Bob Kuhn’s costumes are delicious and Brandon Wardell’s lighting is most effective. Mealah Heidenreich’s props and Mike Patrick’s sound design finish the tech portion of the who’s who for this show being presented by Kokandy Productions, a troupe that continues to find talent that can make music.
The ensemble of players in this production are strong, in fact, much stronger than the script itself is. Not having seen the film ( and not even sure I want to , now), the subject matter is not your typical musical content. Bullying is highly important to these kids. Revenge and murder also come into play and thoughts or talks about suicide , as well as sexual preferences. There are also spirits and ghosts. Again, I will not tell you the outcomes that take place with these kids but this is in a way a coming of age play/story and certainly not a “feel-good” musical. I do feel that the work that went into bringing this production to the stage was indeed,if only the script had been better written. Caitlyn Cerza , Diego Colon (playing many roles, adult and teen), Carly Cozad, Colin Funk, Veronica Garza( also playing adults and teens) Casey Hayes, ,Andrew Spatafora, Andrew Sickel and Meghan Shanahan. Great work. I know there are also swings and understudies, who make up this talented ensemble, but I think I got them all right.
“Heathers: The Musical” will continue at Theater Wit located at 1229 West Belmont Avenue through April 24th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
SPECIALS: Sunday, April 3rd at 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 6th at 8 p.m.
Saturdays, April 16th and 23rd at 3 p.m.
Tickets for this production are $38 (open seating) and are available at the box office, by calling 773-975-8150 or online at www.kokandyproductions.com
Running time approx. 2 hours and 25 minutes including the intermission which went for almost 25 minutes ( drinks can be brought into the theater).
Parking is available on the streets, by using the valet or if you are dining at Cooper’s, they have a great lot in the rear.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Heathers: The Musical”