Heathers: The Musical
Off-Broadway promotional poster
by Daniel Waters
2010 New York Concert|
2013 Los Angeles
2015 San Francisco
2018 Off West End
2018 West End
Heathers: The Musical is a rock musical with music, lyrics and a book by Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy, based on the 1989 film of the same name written by Daniel Waters. After a sold-out Los Angeles tryout, the show moved Off-Broadway in 2014.
Whilst being light-hearted with humorous characters and "fun songs", the show opens conversations about dark issues, including bullying, teen suicide and violence in schools.
- 1 Synopsis
- 2 Musical numbers
- 3 Background
- 4 Productions
- 5 Cast
- 6 Critical reception
- 7 Awards and nominations
- 8 Heathers: The Musical (High School Edition)
- 9 References
- 10 External links
In 1989, on the first day of school, 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 jocks like Ram Sweeney and Kurt Kelly. After trying to defend her best friend, the cheerful, overweight Martha Dunnstock (cruelly renamed "Martha Dumptruck" by Kurt), Veronica longs for the days of elementary school when life was simple and everyone was friends. She wishes desperately to be above the drama, but there is only one elite clique who can do that: the Heathers, the three most beautiful, most popular girls in school: the weak-willed head cheerleader Heather McNamara; the bulimic, personality-lacking yearbook committee head 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, Chandler recognizes her potential and the Heathers give 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 give it to Martha. Veronica tries to stop the plan 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, Jason "J.D." Dean, 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, 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 ("Candy Store Playoff").
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 parents 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 by 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 and threatens to ruin her reputation. In response, the inebriated Veronica vomits on Heather's clothes, enraging her, and the frightened students turn their backs on her. Veronica recognizes that on the following Monday, her new social status will be ripped away and she will go back to being teased and ridiculed. Feeling she has nothing to lose now, Veronica breaks into J.D.'s bedroom through the window and seduces him, losing her virginity in the process (“Dead Girl Walking").
After having a nightmare about Chandler tormenting her ("Veronica's Chandler Nightmare"), 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 and he apologizes, kissing her. Still dazed from the kiss, Veronica grabs the wrong cup. J.D. notices the mix-up but says nothing as Chandler humiliates Veronica, rejects her apology, drinks the drain cleaner, and dies. Fearing no one will believe it was an accident, Veronica panics until J.D. spots Heather's copy of The Bell Jar. He convinces Veronica to forge a suicide note. In the process, she makes Heather sound more deep, misunderstood, and complex than she actually was, gaining her sympathy from the entire school and inspiring ex-hippie teacher Ms. Fleming to start a school-wide campaign to prevent teenage suicide ("Me Inside Of Me").
With Heather Chandler dead, Heather Duke breaks free of her subservient status and assumes control. 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 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, and when she gets there, she discovers the Heathers have locked themselves in a car, trying to fend off a drunk Kurt and Ram. It emerges that they escaped date-rape by the intoxicated football players, who are desperate for sexual relief, by telling them that they can have Veronica. The boys aggressively beg her to have sex with them ("Blue"), but she escapes by giving them more alcohol until they pass out. The next day, Veronica discovers that Heather Duke has taken on Heather Chandler's role of leader, as she takes Heather Chandler's red scrunchie (a symbol of her power) from her locker, and that Ram and Kurt have told everyone that Veronica had sex with them ("Blue (Reprise)"). She is branded a slut by the other students ("Blue Playoff"). Kurt and Ram then beat up J.D. and Veronica starts to cry.
J.D. comforts Veronica and enlists her help in a plan to get revenge on the two jocks. She lures them into the cemetery with the promise of making their lies about her come true, where J.D. explains that they will shoot them with special "Ich Lüge" (German for "I Am Lying") bullets which cause temporary unconsciousness, 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 a horrified Veronica ("Our Love is God").
At Ram and Kurt's joint funeral, a distraught Veronica reflects on Ram and Kurt, musing that they could have potentially outgrown their immaturity, but their lives were cut short before they were given the chance ("Prom or Hell?"). Their fathers unexpectedly decide to accept their sons' homosexuality, even more unexpectedly reveal their own past love affair during a fishing trip, 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 from J.D. 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 kill herself by walking into a library his father was demolishing just before it was blown up. Veronica begs him to give up trying to change the world through violence and live a normal life with her ("Seventeen").
When J.D. leaves, Heather Chandler's ghost appears once more doubting he really changed. Martha asks Veronica for help breaking into J.D.'s locker, as she suspects he murdered the football players, insisting Ram couldn't be gay because of the love note he wrote her. Veronica realizes that if Martha found anything incriminating she would become J.D.'s next target and also fears that her own role in the killings might be discovered. Listening to ghostly Heather Chandler's advice, Veronica drives Martha away by confessing she wrote the note and that Ram thought she was a loser. Martha runs off in tears.
School guidance counselor Pauline Fleming 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 live television ("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"). Duke mocks McNamara and whips the other students into a frenzy. Veronica lashes out at Ms. Fleming for taking advantage of the publicity and not protecting McNamara, and in her rage, she confesses to the murders. No one believes her, thinking she is just desperate for attention. She follows 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 Veronica into killing Duke again, and Veronica realizes he is carrying around a loaded gun. Realizing how unstable he is, Veronica breaks up with him. They argue, and he accidentally points the gun at her. She storms out as the other students (including Heather McNamara) reveal that there is going to be a pep rally later that night ("Hey Yo, Westerburg").
J.D. confronts Duke with evidence that she and Martha were friends when they were 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, feeling unnoticed and mourning Ram, tries to kill herself by jumping off a bridge ("Kindergarten Boyfriend"). She survives with a few broken bones, and her suicide is billed as a failed attempt to imitate the popular kids. Veronica rushes to the hospital as the ghosts of Kurt, Ram, and Heather Chandler taunt her with the realization that she has become as awful as Chandler ("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 Westerburg, 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 (but not before her mother finds her, leading to awkward explanations), and grabs a croquet mallet to put an end to J.D.'s madness, even if she has to die in the 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 in his stomach. 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 good with her life. The bomb goes off, killing J.D. and leaving everyone else unharmed.
Returning to the school singed but alive, Veronica takes the red scrunchie from Heather Duke and declares to the student body that the era of constant ridicule and belittlement is over. Veronica invites Martha and Heather McNamara to hang out, rent a movie, and simply be kids for a little while before their childhoods are over ("Seventeen (Reprise)").
† Not featured on World Premiere Cast Recording
†† "You're Welcome" replaces "Blue," a song on the World Premiere Cast Recording. "You're Welcome" was originally written by O'Keefe and Murphy for the High School edition but was added to the official show beginning with the 2018 London production as they felt that the original song was lazy and trivialized date rape, whereas "You're Welcome" sees Veronica expressing fear for her situation rather than annoyance. A new song for Heather Duke, "Never Shut Up Again", was also added to the London Run, replacing "Blue" (Reprise). For the 2017 workshop, there was a different song to replace "Blue" (Reprise), which became "Big Fun" (Reprise), part of which is now included in "Never Shut Up Again". In the last week at The Other Palace they added a new song after Shine a Light (Reprise) called I Say No where Veronica is sticking it up to JD when he mentions of killing more people
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. Fickman 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".
On September 13–14, 2010, 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.
The show played at the Hudson Backstage Theatre in Los Angeles for a limited enVeronicament 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. McLemore is the only Heather to make it to Off-Broadway but Heather Duke was replaced before Heathers final performance when Kristolyn Lloyd reprised her role as Heather Duke as Alice Lee’s replacement.
In 2013, it was announced that Heathers: The Musical would be brought to Off-Broadway, previews beginning in March at New World Stages, directed by Andy Fickman. Coincidentally, New World is also the name of the original film's distributor. In February 2014, the cast was announced, including 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, Alice Lee as Heather Duke and Tony Award winner Anthony Crivello as Bill Sweeney/'Big Bud' Dean. 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. It was released a week early on June 10, 2014.
A workshop of the musical opened at The Other Palace, London which ran for 5 performances in the Studio from 30 May to 3 June 2017. The workshop was led by Charlotte Wakefield as Veronica Sawyer.
Following the workshop, the musical had its official London premiere in the Theatre at The Other Palace, London from 9 June to 4 August 2018, starring Carrie Hope Fletcher as Veronica Sawyer. The production is produced by Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills, directed again by Andy Fickman and with choreographer/associate director Gary Lloyd. For the London production “Blue” has been changed to the new song “You’re Welcome” and Heather Duke has received her own song “Never Shut Up Again” as well as a few script changes.
On the 4th July 2018 after a performance of the show, it was announced that Heathers would be getting a West End transfer from 3rd September 2018 lasting 12 weeks at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and a new song for Veronica "I Say No" and a few script changes will be added to this transfer.
Notable US regional productions
In 2016 White Plains Performing Arts Center presented the NY Regional Premiere of the production to sold out audiences.
The Australian premiere of Heathers: The Musical at the Hayes Theatre in Sydney was staged in July–August 2015. Directed by Trevor Ashley with choreography by Cameron Mitchell, it starred Jaz Flowers as Veronica Sawyer, Stephen Madsen as Jason "J.D." Dean, Lucy Maunder as Heather Chandler, Erin Clare as Heather McNamara, and Libby Asciak as Heather Duke. The well-received production transferred the following year, with mostly the same cast, for seasons in Brisbane (Playhouse, Queensland Performing Arts Centre) in January 2016, Melbourne (Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne) in May 2016, and the Sydney Opera House's Playhouse in June 2016.
|The Other Palace
|Original Off-West End
|Original West End|
|Veronica Sawyer||Annaleigh Ashford||Barrett Wilbert Weed||Jaz Flowers||Charlotte Wakefield||Carrie Hope Fletcher|
|Jason "J.D." Dean||Jeremy Jordan||Ryan McCartan||Stephen Madsen||Jamie Muscato|
|Heather Chandler||Jenna Leigh Green||Sarah Halford||Jessica Keenan Wynn||Lucy Maunder||Amy Ross||Jodie Steele|
|Heather McNamara||Corri English||Elle McLemore||Erin Clare||Sophie Isaacs|
|Heather Duke||Christine Lakin||Kristolyn Lloyd||Alice Lee||Libby Asciak||Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson||T'Shan Williams|
|Martha Dunnstock||Julie Garnye||Katie Ladner||Lauren McKenna||Lizzie Bea||Jenny O'Leary|
|Ram Sweeney||PJ Griffith||Jon Eidson||Jakob Ambrose||Dominic Andersen|
|Kurt Kelly||James Snyder||Evan Todd||Vincent Hooper||Liam Doyle||Chris Chung|
|Bill Sweeney / Big Bud Dean / Coach Ripper||Eric Leviton||Rex Smith||Anthony Crivello||N/A||Simon Bailey [a]||Edward Baruwa||Hugh Maynard|
|Paul Kelly / Mr. Sawyer / Principal Gowan||Zachary Ford||Daniel Cooney||N/A||Andy Brady [b]||Jon Boydon|
|Mrs. Sawyer / Pauline Fleming||Jill Abramovitz||Rena Strober||Michelle Duffy[c]||Lauren McKenna||Rebecca Lock|
|Stoner Chick||N/A||Rachel Flynn||Sage Douglas [d]||Lauran Rae||Charlotte Jaconelli|
|New Wave Girl||Alex Ellis||Charissa Hogeland||Michelle Barr||Maimuna Mamon [e]||Lauren Drew|
|Young Republicanette||N/A||Cait Fairbanks||N/A||N/A||Olivia Moore|
|Beleaguered Geek||Tom Compton||Zach Bandler||Dustin Sullivan||Rebecca Hetherington||Jack North||Alex James-Hatton [f]|
|Preppy Stud / Officer Milner||N/A||AJ Meijer||N/A||N/A||Sergio Pasquariello|
|Hipster Dork / Officer McCord||N/A||Trevor Shor||Dan Domenech||Leigh Sleightholme||N/A||N/A||John Lumsden|
|Drama Club Drama Queen||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||Merryl Ansah|
- Only played Bill Sweeney and Police Officer
- Also played the role of Big Bud Dean
- Although Duffy was the Mrs. Sawyer / Pauline Fleming of record at the time of closing, the role was played by Molly Hager at the final performance
- Also played Mrs. Sawyer
- Also played Coach Ripper
- Also played Officer Milner
Australia cast replacements
- Heather Chandler: Kirby Burgess
- Veronica Sawyer: Hilary Cole
- Heather McNamara: Rebecca Hetherington
Heathers: The Musical was generally received well by critics and audiences alike. The musical was praised for staying true to the film while still having its own original additions to the storyline. The score and choreography of the musical were also given praise.
The musical, however, was criticized for the length and its characters not living up to the cast of the original movie.
Awards and nominations
Original Off-Broadway Production
|2014||Drama Desk Awards||Outstanding Music||Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Barrett Wilbert Weed||Nominated|
|Lucille Lortel Award||Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Choreographer||Marguerite Derricks||Nominated|
Heathers: The Musical (High School Edition)
Following its 2014 Off-Broadway run, the musical gained cult status from audiences that mirrored the characters at the fictional Westerburg High, and multiple high schools were putting in requests for the licensing rights; accordingly, an abridged "PG-13" version was prepared, newly revised by writers Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, iTheatrics, and licensing company Samuel French specifically for student productions. Most of the profanity in the show was deleted, "Big Fun" and "Dead Girl Walking" received rewritten lyrics and one new song, "You're Welcome" was written for the show to replace "Blue". The original playwrights - O'Keefe and Murphy - have since publicly stated that they prefer "You're Welcome" to "Blue", and the change was officially made for the London production of Heathers in June 2018.
- Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, “Heathers Writers Laurence O’Keefe and Keven Murphy Break Down the Musical’s Full Album Track By Track” Playbill (March 2018), http://www.playbill.com/article/heathers-writers-laurence-okeefe-and-kevin-murphy-break-down-the-musicals-full-album-track-by-track
- Connelly, Brendon (September 23, 2010). "Heathers: The Musical Has Original Screenwriter Dan Waters On Board". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Hetrick, Adam (May 21, 2010). "What Rhymes With Corn Nuts? Heathers Musical Will Receive New York Concert". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Hetrick, Adam (September 13, 2010). ""What Is Your Damage?" Heathers: The Musical Gets Joe's Pub Concerts Sept. 13". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on December 20, 2013. Retrieved May 8, 2011.
- Snetiker, Marc (August 29, 2013). "Heathers the Musical, Based on the '80s Movie, Set for World Premiere in Los Angeles". Broadway.com. Retrieved March 7, 2014.
- "Barrett Wilbert Weed, Ryan McCartan, Jessica Keenan Wynn & More to Star in HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL Off-Broadway; Full Cast Announced". Broadway World. February 6, 2014. Retrieved March 7, 2014.
- McPhee, Ryan (April 14, 2014). "So Very! Heathers: The Musical Will Record Cast Album". Broadway.com. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
- "HEATHERS Sets Early August Closing Date Off-Broadway". Broadway World. July 10, 2014. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
- Blake, Jason (2015-07-23). "Heathers the Musical review: Impressive, calculating and anything but coy". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2017-05-25.
- Woodhead, Cameron (2016-05-15). "Heathers the Musical review: Broadway ballads and gut-busting big-notes betray film's dark edge". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2017-05-25.
- Hook, Chris (June 9, 2016). "Original mean girls return in Heathers". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2017-05-25.
- Coward, Xanthe (12 January 2016). "Heathers: The Musical". XS Entertainment. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
- James, Erin (2016-02-22). "Hilary Cole to replace Jaz Flowers in Heathers, Melbourne season". AussieTheatre. Retrieved 2018-06-06.
- Stasio, Marilyn (2014-04-01). "Off Broadway Review: 'Heathers' the Musical". Variety. Retrieved 2017-12-07.
- Brantley, Ben (2014-04-01). "'Heathers: The Musical' Brings Back Guilt-Free Mayhem". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-12-09.
- Gioia, Michael (September 13, 2016). "How and Why Heathers Got Remade for High School". Playbill.com.
- Churnin, Nancy (September 12, 2016). "Song from world premiere of 'Heathers 101: High School Edition,' opening Thursday at Pearce HS". dallasnews.com.