A Visit to High School Hell with "Heathers"
By Skip Sheffield
High School was never quite this bad. That is what makes “Heathers: The Musical” so funny. The Slow Burn Theatre production of “Heathers” continues through June 26 in the Amaturo Theatre of Broward Center for the Arts.
“Heathers” is based on the 1988 sleeper cult movie of the same name by Daniel Waters. Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy adapted the screenplay for the stage and wrote catchy tunes and lyrics.
“Heathers” is a satire on high school social hierarchy that morphs into a dark comedy about suicide. The Heathers in question are the three most popular and powerful girls at Westerburg High School. They are head cheerleader Heather McNamara (Sunny Gay), insecure, bulimic Heather Duke (Christina Flores) and the unofficial queen of the school, wicked Heather Chandler (Leah Marie Sessa). Outsider Veronica Sawyer (Abby Perkins) envies the Heathers, but they won’t let her into their inner circle. Clever Veronica finds a way by forging a teacher’s note that excuses them from detention. Suddenly for good or ill, Veronica is in.
As gorgeous and sexy as she is, Leah Sessa's Heather Chandler is a really vile person and revels in her devilishness. She pressures Veronica into forging a love letter from football jock Ram Sweeney) (Justen Fox-Hall) to Veronica’s chubby wallflower friend, Martha (Stepanie Trull), who has had a crush on Ram since kindergarten. Martha is cruelly mocked and called Martha Dumptruck. In her misery she later will attempt suicide.
Ram’s best buddy Kurt Kelly (Domenic Servido) is another football jock with an inflated ego. In stark contrast to the status-seeking high schoolers is mysterious newcomer Jason “J.D.” Dean (Bruno Faria).
J.D. is obviously inspired by ill-fated movie star James Dean. He wears a dark trenchcoat and quotes Baudelaire, but there are even darker thoughts in his brain that will be unleashed later.
“Heathers” has Slow Burn’s customarily strong vocal cast. Abby Perkins is a particularly powerful belter. Bruno Farina was a wide vocal range and an exceptionally sweet and sensitive high tenor. The lively, rocking live band is onstage but unseen, but you sure can hear them. Perhaps the most striking thing about “Heathers” is its precision choreography by director Patrick Fitzwater. The characters are always in graceful motion, moving as one. The comedy roles of dumb dads “Big Bad” Dean and Kurt’s dad (and also Veronica’s dad) are handled nimbly by Ben Sandomir and Noah Levine, who have a big reveal toward play’s end.
In view of current tragic events in Orlando, the timing couldn’t be better for “Heathers,” which has a strong message for tolerance and understanding, expressed beautifully in the song “Seventeen”. Seldom has a morality tale been so funny.
Tickets for “Heathers” are $45. Call 954-462-0222 or 954-468-3280 or go to www.browardcenter.org.