Thru July 2
Isn’t it fun to go to high school and not fit in? Isn’t it fun to get bullied by the jocks? Isn’t it just wonderful to get to sit alone at the cafeteria table, or only be able to join the table filled with the nerds? Do you ever fantasize about being one of the cool kids in school?
These questions encourage students to take different paths to handle this pressure. Some survive, some adapt, some take serious steps to vent, and some don’t quite make it. This all was addressed in the film Heathers, a 1988 American cult black comedy film written by Daniel Waters and directed by Michael Lehmann. Then, as all of life should be at some point, this dark tale was adapted into Heathers: The Musical, a rock musical with music, lyrics, and a book by Lawrence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy.
This is the darkly delicious story of Veronica Sawyer (Madeline Krucek), a teenage misfit who hustles her way into the most powerful clique at Westerberg High: the Heathers. (Kayla Heichel, Amy Kohmescher, and Tia Karaplis) Just as she gets comfortable atop the high school food chain, and betrays one of her best friends Martha “Dumptruck” (Molly Millsaps), Veronica falls in love with the dangerously sexy new kid J.D. (Shane Lonergan). Before she gets kicked out of the clique she worked so hard to infiltrate, Veronica decides to bite the bullet and kiss up to the Heathers…but J.D. has another plan.
Quite frankly, Heathers is Heaven. There is sooooooooooooo much delicious debauchery in this show, and fabulous performances to enhance the abundant chicanery. Let’s start with the set designed by Trad A Burns (no period after the A). It reminds me of the result of a love-making session between a Tetris game and a pastel joystick, and at the right moment, it all blew up on stage. All against a palette of high school lockers which remind many of us of the worst days of high school. Mine for sure. Although I was saved because I was a math tutor for the football team, so some big dudes had my back. Sound Designer Carlton Guc does an impressive Sound Design to enhance the audience’s enjoyment of hearing everything beautifully balanced.
The show opens with the kick ass song “Beautiful”, where we get to meet all of these hormonal students. The energy is kinetic and riveting fun. Madeline Krucek as Veronica Sawyer self-actualizes right in front of your face, and when she riffs at the end, i want to throw popcorn all over the theatre and scream “OH HELL YES”. Krucek does a terrific job of portraying the angst of want, and the pain of redemption, all while displaying a voice that is like a vocal all-you-can-eat buffet. And she holds her own quite well against the “Heathers”. And speaking of the Heathers, here they are: Kayla Heichel as Heather Chandler, Amy Kohmescher as Heather McNamara, and Tia Karaplis as Heather Duke. This fierce trio is our answer to national security. Let these bitches defend our borders, and the country will be chanting U! S! A! in no time. Each lady is a weapon of mass entertainment. Beautiful of face, voice and acting chops. Heichel is the head of this group with a commanding presence and talent to match. Kohmescher is also a dynamic presence, along with a face that reminds me of the golden days of Hollywood glamour. Karaplis is a complete bitch, and I couldn’t be happier. She is the last character to turn it around, and throws more shade and attitude than Season 8 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She kills it.
One of the great surprises of the night is the performance of Molly Millsaps as Martha “Dumptruck” Dunnstock. Millsaps does a great job giving this belittled character an arc where we can relate. When she sings “Kindergarten Boyfriend”, she slays it, and provides a real sense of pain and loss, within this comedic tornado. And she just does a great job being the odd truck out. Speaking of surprises, can we talk about Riley Ewing and Jonathan Walker White, as Ram Sweeney and Kurt Kelly, respectively. OMFG. When these two sing, or I should say perform/slay/kill “Blue”, it is a comedic paradise. It’s as if, John Belushi and Chris Farley, came back as high schoolers and terrorized everyone in sight, to our delight. Ewing and White are hilarious and provide one of the rowdiest and funniest numbers in the show. Truly epic.
Circling around these characters in a calculating way is JD, played with brooding genius by Shane Lonergan. Armed with a dark richness to his character, and a voice that gradually becomes more and more powerful and moving as the show goes on. Great outsider looks, and a sexy dangerous joie de vivre, he perfectly captures the dark side. The duet “Seventeen” between Lonergan and Krucek is absolutely beautiful. But before then, Lonergan cracks us up with “Freeze Your Brain”. Great stuff.
Now it is time for the war horses to shine. Amiee Collier is a scream as Ms. Fleming and Veronica’s Mom. Leading the song “Shine a Light”, her clarion voice does its usual brilliant agenda of entertainment. Paul Floriano brings some fun flair to a trio of roles that perfectly fit into the show. Each one providing fun accoutrements. Matthew Wright also provides a trio of roles which add sass and masculinity, but he rips the roof off of the studio leading the song “Dead Gay Son”. A masterful showman at work.
The rest of the cast is all on point. Zach Landes, Greg Good, Joe Virgo, DeLee Cooper, Kacey Faix, Gabi Shook, and swinging Brianna O’Boyle, bring some major Heather realness to the table.
Artistic Director/Director Scott Spence, Musical Director Larry Goodpaster, and Choreographer Martin Cespedes are once again joined at the hip and provide a solid framework of guidance and support for the cast. Technical Director Aaron Benson professionally pulls all the elements together. Trad A Burns provides great lighting and certainly helps nail the Heathers entrance which if on a float, would win at any Pride event. Aimee Kluiber costumes the festivities with perfect pitch.
This regional premiere is a knock out and sold out. To the lucky that get to see it, that will come as no surprise.
Actor’s Equity Association: Matthew Wright, Paul Floriano, Zach Landes
Member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers: Martin Cespedes
$10-$29 Reserved Seating(216) 521-2540
Beck Center For The Arts
17801 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio 44107