A MALLET HAMMER OF SHEER FUN - HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL DONE THE CORRECT WAY - I WANT TO BE A “HEATHER”
High School novelas don’t get as dark and vicious as the classic Teen cult film HEATHERS released back in 1988. The Sirens of the Odyssey and Witches of Macbeth - make their way to Ray of Lights, west coast premiere of the musical version of HEATHERS. “F me gently with a chainsaw” rings out at the Victoria Theatre, and these mean girls are the best. The Musical version of this “Chainsaw” and “Mallet Hammer” - is better than the film.
Director Erik Scanlon brings this talented cast home to their proper stage in SF Mission District. The Musical had a preview run in LA back in 2013 and then moved to off broadway with mixed reviews. Writers Lawrence O’Keefe (Bat Boy and Legally Blonde) and Kevin Murphy (“Reefer Madness”) use many of the iconic lines from the film, “What’s your damage?” to “I just killed my best friend.-- and your worst enemy”. This show needs to be here in San Francisco, and I would guess you won’t read many mixed reviews about this production. Its a great night of Bay Area Theatre.
Scanlon - who is well known by Bay Area audiences for his amazing media visual art and design he adds to so many productions, takes this teen satire to the max. It is a visual evening of teen angst from suicide, to dads who love their gay sons. Artistic Director of Ray Of Light, Jason Hoover said “Since we came across Heathers: The Musical, we knew it had to come to San Francisco and that ROLT had to do it. - This show celebrates the weirdness of high school and the awesomeness of the ‘80s, and we can’t wait for audiences to fall in love with Heathers as much as we have.”
The romp is just the right amount of snark and candy colored camp. Sure I thought this would be a great vehicle for our famous Drag Queen community to own. Wouldn’t the “Heathers” make a great set of dames with Heklina, Peaches Christ, and Lady Bear at the helm. Yet Scanlon and his team cast some of the best young locals to round out this cast. Jessica Quarles plays 17 year old Veronica, and is perfect as the Winona Ryder subtext of the fourth "Heather". Quarles is on the mark with “Fight for Me” a company song in the first act. The high on energy cast is very intense and can all sing their hearts out.
The opening night sold out house was blown away with every turn and song of the story. Almost rock concert like crowd cheering on all the classic lines from the “Heathers”. The first act opens with the show stopper “Beautiful” amped the opening night crowd from the first chord. We are then introduced to the popular girls all called HEATHERS - Jocelyn Pickett as queen Heather Chandler, Samantha Rose Cardenas as the evil and adorable Heather Duke and Lizzie Moss as the alpha Heather McNamara. Costume designer Katie Dowse has the girls in their 80’s colors padded tops, and hair sprayed wigs. High stockings and short skirts brought the “Heathers” their classic 80’s look.
Local favorite and TBA best actor for Triassic Parq, Alex Rodriguez created the choreography and it is splendid 80’s pop and then some. The set Westberg high school gym, is designed by Angrette McCloskey and is highlighted by the huge props of Mallets and the symbols from the story. The story is much the same as the film. Veronica is taken in by the “Heathers” and we meet mysterious JD, the part that launched Christian Slaters career, played by the very talented Jordon Bridges. Westerberg High School now becomes the death camp we remember. JD the new guy on campus plans to rid WHS of teen tyranny and bullies, and has his own plans in store for the Heathers. One the highlights of the show is Quarles and Bridges ballad “Seventeen” is excellent.
WHS is also filled with some ordinary kids such as Martha a bit softic played by the charming Laura Arthur has an impressive solo in the second act “Kindergarten Boyfriend”. Her love for one of the school bullies and jocks Ram, played by local favorite Nick Qunitell is very sweet and dark as the suicide subtext yarns the story. Paul Hovannes is cast as Rams best JO buddy Kurt, and both show off their singing talent in the one of the most memorable numbers “Blue” a tribute to more than their balls. After Veronica blows some well deserved chunks on the Queen Heather, the first death is classic fun as she mutters “corn nuts” and expires. More slaughter to follow. The story still deals with some serious issues that gave the original movie its cult edge, bullying, teen sex, campus shootings, bomb threats and teen suicide. J.D.’s subtext is just as chilling today as when this film was an 80’s hit. Since the film's release Columbine was a headline and “Heathers” is pre Hunger Games of sorts with endless laughs.
O’Keefe and Murphy bring back all the murdered victims from the dead to sing and disturb Veronica and J.D.and blame them for missing their grad day. The sharp lyrics are ferociously funny. The second act opens with the hit song and show stopper “My Dead Gay Son” performed by the two dads - Mischa Stevens and Andy Rotchadl, it is an audience favorite sweet and well staged by Rodriguez choreography.
Notable in the company are Zachariah Mohammed, Melinda Campero, James Mayagoita, Jon Toussaint, Teresa Attridge, Abby Peterson as the greek chorus of teens and Jessica Fisher as the adult women. Music Director Ben Price and his five man orchestra was back in the wings but brought it full, for every number. Especially the flute/clarinet that is the icon sound from the film score. Joe D'Emilio created the light design that incorporated some huge gym windows and a light up banister for the "Heathers" entrance. Production manager Alex Kirschner of the ROLT is also to be commended for bringing this non stop show to the Victoria stage. “Heathers” the rowdy bloody guilty pleasure musical, can beat those Mormon boys across town with a single Mallet. Congrats to the ROLT for making me a HEATHER!
Ray of Light Theatre Bay Area Premiere of
Heathers: The Musical
Directed by Erik Scanlon. Book and Music by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy
May 22 - June 13
San Francisco’s historic Victoria Theatre
Photos by Erik Scanlon.