THE HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL HAS TO DEAL WITH CHANGING TIMES. WE ALL ARE ‘HEATHERS’
“DO I LOOK LIKE MOTHER TERESA”, LPC'S SPRING MUSICAL 'HEATHERS’ SLAYS AUDIENCES
Nearly any discussion about the 1988 cult-classic film “Heathers” includes the topic, “It couldn’t be staged today.” A remnant of pre-Parkland High School, America, the anti-John Hughes flick that starred Winona Ryder (Stranger Things) and Christian Slater as they “accidentally” murder off the popular kids at a Sherwood, Ohio high school. Paramount TV attempted to launch the new TV series in March but it was put on hold. But the Sirens of the Odyssey and Witches of Macbeth make their way to LPC for the musical version of HEATHERS.
The lovely bullies of Westerberg High School are now on stage for one more weekend at the Barbara Fracisco Mertes Center For The Arts at the Los Positas Art Center that must close April 15th. “F me gently with a chainsaw” rings out in this fast moving camp musical and the mean girls are the best. The Musical version of this “Chainsaw” and “Mallet Hammer” - is better than the film. This romp directed by the Los Posita Theatre Arts head, Titian Lish, brings 25 of her talented students to halls of Westerburg High School.
Lish was challenged to bring this topic to a college campus during these sensitive times of high school violence, she says “This production, irreverent and oddly relatable in so many ways, at the core is exploring the - alienation that kids feel in high school. Heathers allows us to satirize the high school experience, laugh at the students (while maybe seeing a little of ourselves in there), roll our eyes at the faculty, and absolutely connect with the underlying difficulty of the lives of these students”.
This young cast is age appropriate for some dark teenage gore. 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 best suits a college company, and on a college campus with its millennial climate fits all the topics of teen angst this story explores.
“Beautiful” opens the first act with Veronica played by the terrific Celia Reddoch who introduces the cast of jocks, mean girls and nerds, “The future gas attendants of America.” The arc is very similar to the film, Veronica is taken in by the “Heathers” and we meet a mysterious new student JD, played seamlessly by the slick Jack Petrin. JD, plans to rid WHS of teen tyranny and bullies, and has his own plans in store for the HEATHERS. One of the highlight songs “Seventeen” is excellent featuring the two leads Reddoch and Petrin. “Dear Diary, my teen-angst bullshit now has a body count” is well presented in this production. The set design is stark with two levels, with a sleek staircase for the Heathers many entrances. Amy Gilbrech and Mariel Chiong’s clever props include a scoreboard that keeps the body count updated and some other numbers that subtext the arc of the story.
It is an evening of teen angst from suicide to dads who love their gay sons. This show celebrates the weirdness of high school and the awesomeness of the 80’s. From the first chord we are introduced to the popular girls, called the HEATHERS - the finesse Ally Murphy as the elegant evil queen Heather Chandler, GenevaMay Colcol who is wonderful as the evil and adorable Heather Duke, and Carly Tilson-Lumetta as the savvy alpha Heather McNamara.
The smart girl outcast, Veronica Sawyer, is accepted into the inner-circle of the Heathers. But with this rise in social status comes a sadistic cruelty and cultish bad girls that Veronica can’t accept. She defects once she hooks up with the new kid in school J.D. the two sing “Freeze Your Brain” as they meet at the local 7-11. Petrin has a strong voice and Reddoch shows off her first rate acting skills.
Costume designer Jennifer Gough has the girls in their 80’s colors padded tops, and hair sprayed wigs by Lenee Madera. Knee high stockings and short skirts brought the “Heathers” their classic 80’s look. The ensemble cast changes into a number of 80’s clothes, rocker tee’s and button shirts, and the fitting “mom” jeans for the adult cast. The romp is just the right amount of snark and candy colored camp.
Reddoch is on the mark with “Fight for Me” a company song, and she is superb in “Dead Girl Walking.” The high energy cast is very intense and can all sing their hearts out, including marvelous Charlotte Crespin as the bullied and humble Martha. Her solo “Kindergarten Boyfriend” is riveting and her voice is full throttle. Choreographer Staci Arriaga missed the mark on most of the ensemble numbers, the show has so much potential as a dance show that seemed to be lost. “Big Fun” with the two jocks Ram and Kurt brings down the house featuring the exceptional Austin Harper and the likable Koby Forbes and their showstopper “Blue”.
Harper and Forbes also are rousing in the second act number “Yo Girl” dressed only in their boxers and tank tops. Harper has a gifted style on stage and a great future in the theatre. Their two dads are played by the vibrant Chris Bono and the hilarious Christian Tanton, making them foolproof in the second act song “Dead Gay Son”. Music Director Diana Cefalo and her eight member orchestra bring a rocking sound to the LPC Theatre. The duo Chris Bono and Christian Tanton play all the adult men roles where their comedic timing is pitch perfect. The dapper Alfonso Gonzales as Veronica’s dad and the polished Chris Granlund as Big Bud Dean are also entertaining. The adult women including Gwynn Cristobal as mom and the superb Dulce Maria Tovar as school counselor Ms Fleming is shining in her solo “Shine A Light”.
Prop team of Gibrech and Chiong scored the needed croquet mallets, kegger cups, slurpees, dial phones and of course the Blue drink and the Gun. Stage manager Andie Fanelli helped get the HEATHERS glam entrances and the large cast on/off stage. Chris Hornbaker’ sound design brings that gun to life and other rock and roll sounds that brightened the excellent 80’s pop. The light design by the talented Mike Rinaldi keeps the green glow of death on each character as they meet their maker. Westerberg High School is also filled with a sharp Greek chorus of teens played by Michelle Roque, Lindsey Lauffer, Isabella David, Kelly Simms, Joshua Lemos, Patrick Maravilla, Veronica La, Katherine Mathers, Erynn Pascual, and the standout Jordan Limesand as the perfect nerd.
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 follows and 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 its film version was an 80’s hit. Since the film's release, schools and bullying is a daily headline.“Heathers” is pre-Hunger Games of sorts with a dark subtext that takes a comic camp look at 80’s but pop culture. The anthem closing song “Seventeen” is reprised, as writers O’Keefe and Murphy bring back all the murdered victims from the dead to sing and disturb Veronica and J.D., at the same time blaming them for missing their grad day.
Westerberg High School is the dark camp teenage “what's your damage” we all remember. The sharp lyrics are furiously funny. HEATHERS is a rowdy bloody guilty pleasure musical, with a cast that delivers. Next up at LPC Theatre Arts is the LPC One Act Festival that opens April 26th and the play UNDER CONSTRUCTION by Charles Mee opens May 4th. In the meantime catch the final weekend of HEATHERS and bring your own Croquet mallet.
LPC THEATRE DEPARTMENT PRESENTS
Book and Music by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy
Directed by Titian Lish
Choreographer Staci Arriga, Music Director Diana Cefalo
Must close April 15th
Barbara Fracisco Mertes Center For The Arts
Las Positas College
Livermore, California 94551
Running Time 2 hours with one Intermission
THE CAST Celia Reddoch , Jack Petrin , Ally Murphy , GenevaMay Colcol , Carly Tilson-Lumetta Michelle Roque , Charlotte Crespin , Kody Forbes , Austin Harper , Chris Bono , Maria Tovar , Lindsey Lauffer , Isabella David , Kelly Simms , Jordan Limesand , Joshua Lemos Patrick Maravilla , Veronica La , Katherine Mathers , Erynn Pascual , Alfonso Jesus Gonzales , Gwynnevere Cristobal , Gowan Christian Tanton , Christopher Granlund, and Chelsea Warner