Heathers: The Musical

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Heathers: The Musical
Heathers The Musical Off-Broadway Poster.jpg
Off-Broadway Poster
Music
Lyrics
  • Laurence O'Keefe
  • Kevin Murphy
Book
  • Laurence O'Keefe
  • Kevin Murphy
Basis 1988 film Heathers
Productions 2010 New York Concert
2013 Hollywood
2014 Off-Broadway
2015 San Francisco
2015 St. Louis
2015 Sydney

Heathers: The Musical is a rock musical with music, lyrics, and a book by Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy and based on the 1988 cult film Heathers. After a sold-out Los Angeles tryout, the show had a production Off-Broadway in 2014.

Background[edit]

The show's director, Andy Fickman, had been working with Daniel Waters (the screenwriter of the film) on the musical. After seeing Laurence O'Keefe's work with Legally Blonde and how he transitioned film to theatre, he decided to pair him with Reefer Madness collaborator Kevin Murphy. Flickman said of the experience, "we found that Heathers gave a great deal of opportunity for ‘80s commentary and a great chance for music and storytelling".[1]

Synopsis[edit]

Act 1[edit]

It's 1989, and seventeen-year-old Veronica Sawyer is frustrated with the hellish competitive social hierarchy at Westerburg High School, where nerds and underclassmen are pushed around by brutish, idiot jocks like Ram Sweeney and Kurt Kelly. After trying to defend her best friend, the cheerful, overweight Martha Dunnstock (cruelly renamed "Martha Dumptruck" by the uncreative Kurt), Veronica longs to be above the drama, but there is only only one elite clique who can do that: the Heathers, the three most beautiful, most popular girls in school. They are the weak-willed cheerleader Heather Macnamara, the sullen, bulimic, Heather Duke and the "mythic bitch" queen of the school, Heather Chandler. When Veronica uses her talents as a forger to get the Heathers out of detention, Heather Chandler recognizes her potential and gives her a make-over, elevating her to a member of their inner circle. ("Beautiful")

Veronica soon realizes that popularity is a double edged sword when Heather Chandler discovers that Martha has had a crush on Ram Sweeney since he kissed her in kindergarten. She orders Veronica to forge a romantic note from him, and gives it to Martha. She tries to stop them, but backs down when the Heathers threaten to destroy her social life ("Candy Store"). Their threats are witnessed by a mysterious, trenchcoat-wearing, Baudelaire-quoting new kid, J.D., who criticizes Veronica for betraying her friend in exchange for popularity. Ram and Kurt take the opportunity to pick a fight with him, and he unexpectedly fights back and defeats them. Watching the fight, Veronica finds herself attracted to the stranger ("Fight for Me"). At Veronica's house Heather Chandler ridicules her for being into someone below her social status, and subtly insults her parents, who aren't sure they like their daughter's new friends.

Veronica meets J.D. again in a 7-Eleven on her way to Ram's homecoming party. They hit it off, and he flirtatiously extols the virtues of the Slurpee, explaining he uses the brain-freeze to numb the pain of his troubled relationship with his father, the absence of his dead mother, and his nomadic lifestyle. ("Freeze your Brain").

Ram and Kurt's macho fathers leave for a fishing trip, roughing their sons up on the way out the door in a similar fashion to the way their sons treat the kids at school. With his folks gone, Ram starts the party, which quickly grows out of control as Veronica gets increasingly drunk. ("Big Fun"). Martha shows up, thinking Ram invited her because of the note, but is cruelly rebuffed. The Heathers try to prank her dressing up a pig-shaped piñata to resemble her, but Veronica stops them and throws the piñata in the pool. She angrily resigns from the Heathers, but Heather Chandler refuses to allow her to walk away, threatening to ruin her social life. In response, the inebriated Veronica pukes on Heather's shoes, enraging her, and the frightened students turn their backs on her. Feeling she has nothing to lose now, she breaks into J.D.'s bedroom and sleeps with him, loosing her virginity ("Dead Girl Walking").

After having a nightmare about Heather Chandler tormenting her, Veronica decides to go to her house to apologize, with J.D. tagging along. Heather orders Veronica to make her a hangover cure, and J.D., apparently jokingly, suggests putting toxic drain cleaner in it as revenge. Veronica tells him to stop, but in a distracted moment, grabs the wrong cup. J.D. notices the mix-up, but says nothing as Heather Chandler humilates Veronica, rejects her apology, drinks the hangover cure, and dies. Fearing no one will believe it was an accident, Veronica freaks out until J.D. spots Heather's copy of The Bell Jar. He convinces Veronica to use her forging skills to write a suicide note ("The Me Inside of Me"). In the process, she makes Heather sound more deep and complex than she actually was, gaining her sympathy from the entire school and starting a school-wide campaign to prevent teenage suicide.

With Heather Chandler dead, Heather Duke breaks free of her subservient status and assumes control, taking Chandler's iconic red scrunchie from her locker as a symbol of her new power. Veronica and J.D. watch her give sob story interviews on multiple news channels (and in multiple languages) at J.D.'s house, where Veronica witnesses first-hand J.D.'s tense relationship with his father, demolitions expert Big Bud Dean. Veronica's displeasure at the new status quo is equaled only by that of Heather Chandler herself, who appears as a ghost to berate Veronica from beyond the grave. Veronica gets a call from Heather McNamara, begging her to come to the cemetery. When she gets there, she discovers the two Heathers locked in a car, trying to fend off a drunk Kurt and Ram. It emerges that they escaped the intoxicated football players, who are desperate for some sexual relief, by telling them that they can have Veronica. The boys aggressively beg her to give them some particularly special attention ("Blue"), but she escapes by feeding them more alcohol until they pass out. The next day, Veronica discovers that they have told everyone that she had a three-way with them, and she is branded a slut ("Blue Reprise").

J.D. comforts her, and enlists Veronica's help in plan to get revenge on the two jocks. She lures them into the woods with the promise of making their lies about her come true, where J.D. explains that they will shoot them special "Ich Luge" bullets which cause temporary unconciousness, putting them out long enough for cops to find a forged suicide note proclaiming they're gay lovers. Once the jocks are in position, J.D. shoots Ram, but Veronica misses Kurt, who runs into the woods pursued by J.D. As Veronica realizes Ram is dead and the bullets are real, J.D. shoots Kurt down in cold blood, and proclaims his undying love to the horrified Veronica ("Our Love is God").

Act 2[edit]

Veronica is furious at J.D. for his deception and violence, but he is adamant that Ram and Kurt were better off dead ("Prom or Hell?"). At Ram and Kurt's joint funeral, when their fathers unexpectedly decide to accept their sons' homosexuality, even more unexpectedly reveal their own past homosexual affair, and vow to work towards making the world a more tolerant place. ("My Dead Gay Son"). Seeing this as a sign their murders are making the world a better place, J.D. tries to convince Veronica they should make Heather Duke their next target. She refuses, provoking a furious rant about the way society creates pain and misery. Sensing the deeper pain driving his fury, Veronica asks J.D. how his mother died, and learns that he watched her commit suicide by walking into a building his father was demolishing just before it was blown up. Attempting to get through to him, Veronica begs him to give up trying to change the world through violence and live a normal life with her ("Seventeen").

Martha asks Veronica for help breaking into J.D.'s locker, as she suspects he murdered the footballers, insisting Ram couldn't be gay because of the love note he wrote her. Knowing that if Martha found anything incriminating she would become J.D.'s next target, and goaded on by the mocking ghosts of Heather Chandler and the football players, Veronica drives Martha away by confessing she wrote the note and that Ram thought she was a loser. Martha runs off in tears.

Pauline Fleming, the school guidance counsellor, holds a televised therapy assembly in order to aid the student body and prevent any more suicides from happening, and coincidentally to promote Fleming's controversial therapeutic techniques on TV. ("Shine A Light"). Heather McNamara is the only one to step forward, confessing she's thought about killing herself due to the overwhelming peer pressure she faces every day ("Lifeboat"). Heather Duke turns on her, whipping the other students into mocking her. Veronica lashes out at Ms. Fleming for taking advantage of the publicity and not protecting Heather Macnamara, and in her rage, she confesses to the murders. No one believes her, thinking she is just desperate for attention. She follows Heather McNamara to the school bathroom, where she catches her attempting to overdose on a bottle of sleeping pills. ("Shine a Light (Reprise)" Veronica stops her in time and comforts her. J.D. tries to talk her into killing Heather Duke again, and Veronica realizes he is carrying around a loaded gun. Realizing how unstable he is, Veronica breaks up with him.

J.D. confronts Heather Duke with evidence that she and Martha were friends when they were young children, and blackmails her into getting all the kids at school to sign a petition declaring a holiday in remembrance of the victims of suicide. Martha, unnoticed by everyone and mourning her beloved Ram, tries to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge ("Kindergarten Boyfriend"). She survives with a few broken bones, and her suicide is derided as a failed attempt to imitate the popular kids. Veronica rushes to the hospital as the ghosts taunt her with the realization that she has become as awful as Heather ever was. ("Yo Girl"). When she returns home Her parents confront her, telling her J.D. has told them she is suicidal, and she realizes J.D. plans to make her his next victim. He breaks into her room, wielding a gun, as she barricades herself in the closet. Increasingly unhinged, he tells her he's changed his mind about killing her, believing the solution to their problem is to kill the student body that's brainwashed her. He reveals that the petition, signed by every student at Westerberg, was actually a disguised suicide note, and he plans to blow up the school while everyone's at a pep rally, making it look like a mass suicide. Growing impatient, he breaks open the door, and finds Veronica dangling from a noose. Grief-stricken, he rushes out to complete his plan in her memory ("Meant to Be Yours").

Veronica, however, has faked her suicide, and grabs a croquet mallet to put an end to J.D.'s madness, even if she has to die in process ("Dead Girl Walking (Reprise)"). She confronts him as he's setting up the bomb in the boiler room underneath the gym. She begs him one final time to stop, but he refuses to listen, and she attacks him. In their struggle, his gun goes off, and J.D. collapses with a bullet wound to the stomach. Thinking he's dead and having no idea how to disarm the bomb, Veronica takes it out to the empty football field, intending to save the other students by sacrificing herself. J.D., still alive, follows her and convinces her to let him take the bomb instead ("I Am Damaged"), asking her to do something with her life. The bomb goes off, killing J.D. and leaving everyone else unharmed.

Returning to the school signed but alive, Veronica takes the red scrunchie from Heather Duke, tying it in her own hair, and declares to the student body that the era of constant ridicule and belittlement is over. Veronica invites Martha and Heather Macnamara to hang out, rent a movie, and simply be kids for a little while before their childhood is over ("Seventeen (Reprise)").

Productions[edit]

Pre Off-Broadway[edit]

There was a reading sometime in 2010, with Kristen Bell as Veronica, Christian Campbell as J.D., and Jenna Leigh Green, Corri English, and Christine Lakin as the Heathers.[2]

On September 13–14, it was presented as a concert at Joe's Pub. The show was directed by Andy Fickman, and it starred Annaleigh Ashford as Veronica Sawyer, Jeremy Jordan as Jason Dean, Jenna Leigh Green as Heather Chandler, Corri English as Heather McNamara, and Christine Lakin as Heather Duke, James Snyder as Kurt Kelly, PJ Griffith as Ram Sweeney, Julie Garnyé as Martha "Dumptruck" Dunnstock, Eric Leviton as Ram's Dad, Kevin Pariseau as Kurt's Dad/Principal, Jill Abramovitz as Ms. Fleming/Veronica's Mom, Tom Compton as Hipster Dork/Preppy Kid, Alex Ellis as Goth Girl/English Teacher/Young Republicanette, and Kelly Karbacz as Stoner Chick/School Psychologist.[3]

The show played at the Hudson Backstage Theatre in Los Angeles for a limited engagement on the weekends from September 21, 2013 to October 6, 2013. The cast included Barrett Wilbert Weed as Veronica, Ryan McCartan as J.D., Sarah Halford as Heather Chandler, Kristolyn Lloyd as Heather Duke, and Elle McLemore as Heather McNamara.[4]

Off-Broadway[edit]

In 2013, It was announced that Heathers: The Musical would be brought to Off-Broadway, previews beginning in March. In February 2014, the cast was announced. It included Barrett Wilbert Weed, Ryan McCartan, and Elle McLemore reprising their roles as Veronica, J.D, and Heather McNamara, respectively, with new additions to the cast being Jessica Keenan Wynn as Heather Chandler and Alice Lee as Heather Duke.[5] The show began previews on March 15, 2014 and opened on March 31, 2014.

A cast album was recorded on April 15–16, 2014 with an in-store and digital release of June 17, 2014.[6] It was released a week early on June 10, 2014.

On June 9, Dave Thomas Brown replaced Ryan McCartan as JD and Kristolyn Lloyd assumed the role of Heather Duke, replacing Alice Lee who left to appear on Rising Star. On July 10, Charissa Hogeland replaced Barrett Wilbert Weed as Veronica. Hogeland was previously the Dance Captain for the show and played the part of New Wave Party Girl, understudying the roles of Veronica, Heather Chandler, and Heather Duke.

Heathers: The Musical played its final performance at New World Stages on August 4, 2014.[7][8] Coincidentally, New World is also the name of the original film's distributor.

San Francisco Production[edit]

Ray of Light Theatre will produce the Bay Area premiere and the first regional production since the Off-Broadway production of Heathers: The Musical. It will be performed at the Victoria Theater in San Francisco from May 22-June 13, 2015 starring Jessica Quarles as Veronica Sawyer. [9]

Canadian Performances[edit]

In February 2016, Hammer Entertainment, a community theatre in Hamilton, Ontario, will be producing the Canadian premiere of Heathers: The Musical with an all-Canadian cast, directed by Nicholas Kulnies.

In July/August 2016, Fighting Chance Productions, an independent theatre company in Vancouver, BC, will be producing Heathers: The Musical as part of their 2015/2016 season.[10]


Australian Production[edit]

In 2015, it was announced that Hayes Theatre Company would produce the Australian premiere of Heathers: The Musical in Sydney from July 16-August 9.

The production, directed by Australian musical theatre and cabaret star Trevor Ashley, will star Jaz Flowers as Veronica Sawyer, Stephen Madsen as Jason "J.D." Dean, Lucy Maunder as Heather Chandler, Erin Clare as Heather McNamara, Libby Asciak as Heather Duke, Lauren McKenna as Martha Dunnstock/Pauline Fleming, Vincent Hooper as Ram Sweeney and Jakob Ambrose as Kurt Kelly with an ensemble featuring Stephen McDowell, Michelle Barr, Rebecca Hetherington and Mitchell Hicks.[11] [12] [13]

Principal roles and major casts[edit]

Character Los Angeles Original Off-Broadway Closing Off-Broadway Australia
Veronica Sawyer Barrett Wilbert Weed Charissa Hogeland Jaz Flowers
Jason "J.D." Dean Ryan McCartan Dave Thomas Brown Stephen Madsen
Heather Chandler Sarah Halford Jessica Keenan Wynn Lucy Maunder
Heather McNamara Elle McLemore Erin Clare
Heather Duke Kristolyn Lloyd Alice Lee Kristolyn Lloyd Libby Asciak
Martha Dunnstock Katie Ladner Lauren McKenna
Kurt Kelly Evan Todd Jakob Ambrose
Ram Sweeney Jon Eidson Vincent Hooper
New Wave Party Girl Charissa Hogeland Lauren Cipoletti TBC
Young Republicanette Cait Fairbanks TBC
Stoner Chick Rachel Flynn TBC
Beleaguered Geek Zach Bandler Dustin Sullivan TBC
Hipster Dork/Officer McCord Trevor Shor Dan Domenech TBC
Preppy Stud/Officer Milner AJ Meijer TBC
Bill Sweeney/Big Bud Dean/Coach Ripper Rex Smith Anthony Crivello TBC
Paul Kelly/Mr. Sawyer/Principal Gowan Zachary Ford Daniel Cooney TBC
Mrs. Sawyer/Pauline Fleming Rena Strober Michelle Duffy TBC/Lauren McKenna
Swings Molly Hager, Matthew Schatz TBC

Musical Numbers[edit]

† Not featured on World Premiere Cast Recording

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Off-Broadway Production[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2014 Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Actress in a Musical Barrett Wilbert Weed Nominated
Outstanding Music Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy Nominated
Lucille Lortel Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical Barrett Wilbert Weed Nominated
Outstanding Choreographer Marguerite Derricks Nominated

References[edit]

External links[edit]