By Brendan Graham
In 1988, the world was introduced to the original ‘Mean Girls’ in the dark comedy HEATHERS starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. A story of a social outcast wanting to survive high school and the boy she falls in love with that’s willing to kill to make things better. The movie was a box office flop, but it’s become a cult classic, especially amongst those who also had a tough time in high school and always fantasized about taking out the trash - I mean bullies. I’m a big fan of the film as well, but I can’t lie when I said I wasn’t sure how they’d pull off this story as a musical. I don’t get to the theater very often, so I have been unable to catch a performance of this live. Fortunately, Roku is bringing the theater experience to you, and let me just say, you’ll need a dark sense of humor to enjoy this but if you’re a fan of musicals, this one really delivers.
In this musical production based on the film, we are introduced to Veronica Sawyer (Alisa Davison) who is a nobody that wants to be somebody - she also just wants to survive high school long enough to get out of town. Making this goal difficult for her, are the three Heathers - Heather Duke (Vivian Panka), Heather McNamara (Teleri Hughes), and the meanest of the bunch, Heather Chandler (Maddison Firth). These mean girls take notice of Veronica, after realizing she proves useful in getting them out of trouble because of her ability to forge handwriting. They decide to include her in the group and Veronica’s life improves at school. She soon meets a mysterious young man named J.D. (Simon Gordon) who shows her there are other ways to survive high school, but his ways prove to be a bit more - homicidal.
Like I mentioned before, I wasn’t sure how this would translate into a musical, and I hadn’t heard the soundtrack before either. Going into this professionally recorded live performance from London’s West End, I wasn’t sure what to expect beyond that I really enjoy the film this is based on. I knew something dark and different was coming up, because the show begins with a title card with information about Suicidal Hotlines. Yes, the topic of Suicide is highly present in this show (if you’ve seen the film, you are very aware of this already) and if the topic is upsetting to you and you don’t want to hear several songs about the topic itself, best probably avoid this one. I really enjoyed this show, the cast is spectacular and the songs are incredibly catchy. The set pieces are simple and maneuvered quite gracefully from scene to scene, and the demented sensibility of the feature film is very present from start to finish. Alisa Davison absolutely shines as Veronica, as do all of the mean Heathers. Simon Gordon is disturbingly sweet as J.D. and his songs really packed a punch, especially towards the finale. I also think what’s quite evident, is that it really holds the late 80s as a time capsule for better or for worse, of the sensibilities and humor that doesn’t always fly today.
HEATHERS is certainly not a musical for everyone, but if you’re a fan of the film, have a dark sense of humor, and want to tap your feet to some incredibly creative show tunes, get ready to stream this musical production on the Roku Channel starting September 16th. I know I’ll be singing along to these songs for quite some time myself.