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Heathers: The Musical

                                                     by Deirdre Donovan

 cast of Heathers                                   photos by Chad Batka

Popularity is the name of the game in Heathers: the Musical, which is still running strong following its opening on March 31st at New World Stages.  The titular Heathers—Heather Chandler, Heather McNamara, and Heather Duke— are champion put-you-downers who are determined to remain on top as Princesses of Westerberg High in Ohio.

Based on the cult 1989 film written by Daniel Waters, and brought to the stage by Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness) and Laurence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde) who collaborated on the book, music, and lyrics, this tuner is right in tune with one of the hottest issues in society today:  youth bullying youth. Okay, it is a cartoon of teens and the very competitive world they inhabit.  But it still speaks with clarity, wit, and has song and dance numbers (choreography by Marguerite Derricks) that are riveting to watch and listen to.

Barrett Wilbert Weed & Ryan McCartan

The young cast is superb!  Jessica Keenan Wynn as Heather Chandler, Elle McLemore as Heather Duke, and Alice Lee as Heather McNamara, make-up the Heathers junta and are all triple threats with talent to burn.  Another actress who shares equal artistic mettle is Barrett Wilbert Weed, playing the smart and beautiful rebel Veronica Sawyer, who falls for sexy, mysterious

new kid J.D.(Ryan McCartan) and then boldly rejects the Heathers clique.  Under the able direction of Andy Fickman, these aforementioned performers, and the rest of the 17-member cast, strut their stuff and make their points about bullying with real bite and panache. Amy Clark’s costumes help define the characters.

This musical has been evolving for approximately 4 years, and can already boast of bi-coastal productions. It had a reading in 2010 and a concert version at Joe’s Pub (at the Public Theater) that same year.  It got its stage legs, however, at Los Angeles’ Hudson’s Backstage Theatre in September and October 2013.  And, with enthusiasm growing for the musical there, the decision was made to transfer it to Off Broadway.  It was a smart move.  New Yorkers have been beating a path to Heathers since the early critics weighed in with thumbs up for this delightful new tuner with a serious message for youth.

The songs pretty much propel the story forward and make the transitions between scenes go smoothly.  There’s the opening number “Beautiful” that allows the audience to see all the eye candy on stage and reveals how the high school set think being beautiful is the bottom line, and (falsely) equate it as a sure ticket to success.  Other numbers like “Candy Store” prove that the Heathers have a mean streak a mile wide and would “slap your face off” in a blink if you crossed them.  “My Dead Gay Son” has a real twist and a revelation tucked into it as two mourning Dads (Anthony Crivello and Daniel Cooney) rewind the years and uncover that their own sexual preferences haven’t always been for the opposite sex.  There are no musical clunkers here, and the comic tone trumps over the somber.

The show does stretch a tad too long at over 2 hours and 15 minutes, and sometimes gets repetitive in its material.  There’s an intermission that serves up drinks that turn the theater into more of a pub atmosphere than anything else.  Obviously, the emphasis here is on keeping it fun and light.  So while it carries a sobering anti-bullying message, Heathers aims to get its truth across without getting overly puritanical or preachy.

Jon Eison and cast of Heathers

Heathers is one of those musicals that seems to come out of nowhere, and now that it is up and running, you simply want it to continue on and on.  This is a must-see for youngsters over 12, and oldsters who want to be in the loop of the new generation with its growing pains and joys.

Those who want a sneak peak at Heathers can go to Youtube and catch some of its lively songs and find out why New Yorkers have taken big to this little musical that could.  This show has a lot of dark corners where its various characters wrestle with their demons and better angels, and they soon realize that killing is just a bullet away.

No matter how you spin it, there’s no doubt that Heathers is a contemporary parable that deserves your attention.  So, by all means, go to this killer musical and learn some important lessons about survival.

Heathers:  The Musical

At New World Stages, Stage 1, 340 West 50th Street, Manhattan

For tickets, phone 212/ 239-6200 or visit

Running time:  2 hours; 15 minutes

Open run.