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Heathers: The Musical
by Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy

If you had the good fortune to be in Calgary the week of June 18th hopefully you caught  Cappuccino Theatre’s production of Heathers: The Musical at the Vertigo Theatre, right next door to the Calgary Tower at 115 9th Ave SW. 

This is a wonderful adaptation of the most savagely funny high school teen angst movie ever made. Virtually all the play’s dialogue is taken directly from the film.  All the great lines are there, such as “Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?” and the one involving a chainsaw. The musical numbers are expansions of  definitive lines and of subtexts. The lyrics add extraordinary emotional complexity and bite to an already incisive script, and the score brings it all vibrantly alive. The opening number “Beautiful” captures the essence of high school with agonizing precision. The protagonist, Veronica Sawyer, remembers how her classmates used to be before they got caught up in their roles, and she wishes they could be more like their real, former selves.  The jocks, the nerds, the preppies, the stoners, and the outcasts all turn to stare with lust and longing when the three Heathers take center stage to sing  and dance -  and boy! do they dance! -  “Candy Store” in which queen bee Heather Chandler explains how she rules her domain. 

Veronica gets co-opted by the Heathers when she does them a good turn, and gets to experience the heady, addictive properties of power and popularity. When a mysterious loner who quotes her favorite authors and stands up to the jock bullies enrolls in school, Veronica falls in love. 

The plot takes some every dark turns as it confronts issues of parental cluelessness, suicide, slander, publicity mongering, violence, and ethical dilemmas, but the song numbers temper the storyline with levity and poignant insight.  Some of the standout numbers include “Dead Girl Walking”, “The Me Inside of Me”, and “Lifeboat”, and I’ll give a special shout out to “My Dead Gay Son” which is a truly transformative moment in the show.  

All the cast are wonderful. Jamie Robinson is killing as the ambitious Number Two Heather; Bryan Smith as JD brings alternates between aloof observer and avenging fury; Mandee Marcil is tender and appealing as Martha Dunnstock, the butt of her clasmates’ cruelest humor. Stevie Forzani brings a wry gravitas to the role of  the hippie teacher Ms. Flemming.  Forrest Tymchuk and Johann Wentzel have a blast as the two jocks; it takes a certain amount of courage to sing a number called “Blue” wearing nothing but briefs. As Veronica, Chelsea Millard holds the show together.

Heathers: The Musical is thought-provoking, soul-searching entertainment.

The original movie Heathers starred Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, and Shannon Doherty, and it was the predecessor of such films as Mean Girls and Sydney White.

-- Chris Wozney

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