Amy VanDyke, Samantha Torres, Chloe Grisa in Ann Arbor Civic Theatre’s production of “Heathers: The Musical.”
Way back in my high school days, I remember being told that one day, I’d come to view those years as among the best of my life.
Uh … seriously? What was it about high school that I was expected to miss, exactly? The guys who barked at me as I walked down the hallway from my locker, or the girls who openly criticized my wardrobe? Perhaps the rampant acne, or the hormones? Or the invisibility that was maddeningly paired with bursts of intense scrutiny?
No, I was more than ready to leave high school in 1989 – which was, coincidentally, the year that the cult dark comedy movie “Heathers” (starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater) was released. As college freshmen, my friends and I watched video cassette copies of it in our dorm rooms and quoted from it with abandon.
So color me stoked when I learned that the satiric teen film had been adapted into a stage musical (by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy) that premiered in Los Angeles, and then Off-Broadway, in 2013; and Ann Arbor Civic Theatre recently provided locals with a pretty great opportunity to check out the irreverently filthy, witty, violent, and bittersweet show for themselves.
“Heathers”’ story focuses on Veronica (Emily Courcy), a wryly smart but overlooked girl who one day uses her forgery talents to help get the school’s three most popular girls, all named Heather, out of trouble. Shortly after Veronica’s invited to join the power clique, she meets a caustic, Baudelaire-quoting, trench-coat-wearing new guy named JD (Andrew Buckshaw), who intrigues her. But at a party, when the Alpha Heather (Samantha Torres) is about to humiliate Veronica’s old misfit friend Martha (Zoe VanSlooten), Veronica intervenes, placing herself in Alpha Heather’s sights.
The next morning, Veronica goes to Heather’s house to grovel, but when JD distracts her, she accidentally serves Heather toxic drain cleaner instead of the requested hangover cure. JD and Veronica end up forging a suicide note, along with Heather’s copy of “The Bell Jar” – but things only spin further out of control from there, as JD’s dark plan to make the world a better place shifts into high gear.
It should go without saying that A2CT’s production, directed by Ron Baumanis, was decidedly not appropriate for kids. With a spirited (but empoweringly feminist) on-stage sex scene between Veronica and JD (“Dead Girl Walking”), and the kind of puffed up, dirty, baseless sexual bragging that some high school boys will always do (“Blue (Reprise)” and “Blue Playoff”) – not to mention Hayden Reboulet, who, as Ram, appeared wholly content to wear nothing but a pair of tighty-whities throughout the second act – the show stays true to its edgy roots. Continue reading