Even though it’s based on a cult movie favourite, Heathers: The Musical is an odd creation. It plays off every taboo imaginable, from suicide, sex and murder to bullying, social isolation and even homosexuality. It basically has everything going against it from the moment the show opens with the song Beautiful and lyrics like “Life can be beautiful, I pray, I pray, I pray, for a better way.”
What the dreary writers of Heathers didn’t expect was St. Clair College.
Despite the disturbing content, the cast and crew gave this dark musical a big, bright production, with lead actress Jessica Wilson giving Veronica Sawyer a severe dose of common sense. Although the movie version starred Winona Ryder, Wilson gave the role a bit more of a nerdy slant and in the end looked more like Anne Hathaway from The Princess Diaries, giving the character a massive improvement.
Director and choreographer Melissa Williams chose her cast wisely, with Wilson as a strong lead, supplemented by a stunning group of girls for her three Heathers. Breannah Deschaine and Camila Ramirez were wickedly evil and played off Dallis Brinkman’s cruel, yet sexy adaption of Heather Chandler. Brinkman looked stunning on stage with the shortest skirt of the bunch, enhanced with tall plaid socks and bright red ribbon in her golden hair. In many ways, she surpassed original actress Kim Walker with her vivid presentation of Chandler. All three Heathers sang with a power and charm that made it obvious they were the queens of Westerburg High and they had enough upskirt bend-overs to make even the most prudish grandma want to take a peek at what was underneath those skirts.
Also striking was Leah Galloway’s awesome version of Martha ‘Dumptruck’ Dunnstock, which was also given an overly nerdy twist. At one point, Galloway performed a wicked backward dive off the top of the stage during a drunken suicide attempt that left the character wheel chair bound for the rest of the show. Although the character was heavy on the nerdy side, I’m sure most in the audience felt a bit of Galloway’s pain when she was picked on and treated like dirt – even more so than Carrie Lynn’s movie version.
The jocks in the show were quite funny even though their characters were just as evil as the Heathers. Jakub Brubaker and Alex Titei easily fell into the stupidity of the football jocks and were featured in very loose tightey whities for more than half the show. They brought a good sense of humour to the show and seemed to enjoy singing the campy Blue, about their testicular love for Veronica.
Dominique Ducreay-Jean Jacques was very dark throughout the entire show, mostly wearing a black trench coat with black clothes underneath and long slicked back hair tied into a bun. He presented himself very much like Christian Slater did in the movie and shocked the audience with a few pyrotechnic gunshots and a giant explosion.
With glorious costumes full of short plaid school girl skirts, bright red and white cheerleader outfits, nerdy outfits, football jocks and even those God awful tighty whities, designer Agatha Knelsen gave us enough 80s looks on stage to keep our eyes very busy when the entire chorus was on stage. Much of the relief from the tension and angst was due to the costuming and Williams flashy choreography.
Heathers, and its deep, dark story, would have never been my first choice to make into a musical, but when its performed on a grand scale with a big voiced cast with great costumes and powerful choreography, it seems to work. And for fans of the cult film, the live version will surely be a wicked treat.
Heathers runs until Saturday, April 29 at the Chrysler Theatre in Windsor. Tickets are $20/$10 at www.chryslertheatre.com or call the box office at 519-252-6579.