Friday, January 24, 2020

Review: “Heathers: The Musical”

By Alec Clayton
Published in The News Tribune, Jan. 24, 2020

from left: Annelise Martin as Heather Duke, Taylor Colvill as Heather Chandler and Juliette Hollified as Heather MacNamara. Photos by Kyle Sinclair and Mathew Price. 
Based on the hit 1980s dark comedy with Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, Heathers: The Musical” is certainly dark, and there are a few funny lines, but it is not a funny play.
Lakewood Playhouse’s production is well acted, with a large and talented cast of mostly youth actors who are relatively new to South Sound stages, and there is good music. Both the film and the musical have developed something of a cult following. The night I attended there were diehard fans in the audience who knew the lyrics and sang along and clapped and stomped their feet to the beat of the music – like a slightly less boisterous version of a “Rocky Horror” audience. And many of them laughed at so-called punch lines that were not only not funny but were vicious.
“Heathers” is a story of bullying, homophobia, sexual harassment and assault, suicide and, ultimately, murder. No laughing matter. To the writer and producers’ credit, the play makes a clear statement to the effect that bigotry and bullying and homophobia are wrong, and it ends on an uplifting note when the former bullies and their victims, including the ghosts of the dead ones, come together in forgiveness and mutual support.

from left: Christine Choate as Martha, Molly Quinn as Veronica, Annelise Martin as Heather Duke, Taylor Colvill as Heather Chandler and Juliette Hollified as Heather MacNamara. 
Also to their credit, writers, composers and lyricists Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy replaced the original song, “Blue” with a boys-will-be-boys message with the more sensitive “You’re Welcome” because they realized, as Director Ashley Roy noted in the program, “Blue” “validated a toxic culture of male entitlement and freedom from consequent while further dis-empowering their female lead.”
Students at Westerburg High School in Sherwood, Ohio are dominated by a trio of bullying mean girls, all named Heather: Heather Chandler (Taylor Colvill), Heather McNamara (Juliet Hollifield) and Heather Duke (Annelise Martin) and a duo of bullying football players, Ram Sweeney (Austin Payne) and Henry Temple (Kurt Kelly). Their primary targets are misfits Veronica Sawyer (Molly Quinn), J.D. Dean (Avery Horton) and Martha Dunnstock (Christine Choate). Veronica and J.D. fight back with disastrous consequences.
All the actors playing high schoolers are themselves teenagers, except for the Heathers, who are in their twenties, and they all display acting chops such as you’d expect from more experienced actors. The only actors with longtime stage experience are Eric Strachan, who plays the football coach, Lydia Jane, who plays two adult roles, and Kyle Murphy, who plays Principal Gowan and a couple of dads. All of them turn in fine performances. Quinn and Horton are truly outstanding, as is Colville as Heather Chandler.
The song “Freeze Your Brain” a tribute to, of all places, Seven Eleven, featuring J.D. was one of the funnier and more enjoyable songs, and “My Dead Gay Son” featuring Strachan and Murphy with the ensemble is an uplifting celebration of love and acceptance.
Viewers should be aware that the play contains adult language, simulated sex, gunshots and smoking of non-toxic prop cigarettes. This play is not recommended for young children.
The house was sold out the night I attended, and considering the cult nature of “Heathers,” it might be wise to get advanced tickets.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 9
WHERE: Lakewood Playhouse
TICKETS: $31.00, $29 military and seniors, $26.00 students/educators), pay what you can Jan. 23
INFORMATION: (253) 588-0042,

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