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Heathers: The Musical Edit

Heathers: The Musical is a rock musical with music, lyrics, and a book by Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy and based on the 1988 cult film Heathers. After a sold-out Los Angeles tryout, the show had a production Off-Broadway in 2014. The show, while a comedy, deals with issues of teen suicide, murder, bullying, homophobia, and gun violence. It has since become massively popular on various social media outlets.

Heathers: The Musical
Off-Broadway Poster
Music
  • Laurence O'Keefe
  • Kevin Murphy
Lyrics
  • Laurence O'Keefe
  • Kevin Murphy
Book
  • Laurence O'Keefe
  • Kevin Murphy
Basis 1988 film Heathers
Productions 2010 New York Concert

2013 Hollywood
2014 Off-Broadway
2015 San Francisco
2015 St. Louis
2015 Sydney
2017 Off West End

Act 1 Edit

It is the first day of school, 1989, and seventeen-year-old Veronica Sawyer is frustrated with the hellish competitive social hierarchy at Westerburg High School, where nerds and underclassmen are pushed around by brutish, idiot jocks like Ram Sweeney and Kurt Kelly. After trying to defend her best friend, the cheerful, overweight Martha Dunnstock (cruelly renamed "Martha Dumptruck" by the uncreative Kurt), Veronica longs for the days of elementary school when life was simple and everyone was friends. She wishes desperately to be above the drama, but there is only one elite clique who can do that: the Heathers, the three most beautiful, most popular girls in school. They are the weak-willed head cheerleader Heather McNamara; the bulimic, personality-lacking yearbook committee head Heather Duke; and the "mythic bitch queen" of the school, Heather Chandler. When Veronica uses her talents as a forger to get the Heathers out of detention, Chandler recognizes her potential and gives her a make-over, elevating her to a member of their inner circle ("Beautiful").

Veronica soon realizes that popularity is a double-edged sword when Heather Chandler discovers that Martha has had a crush on Ram Sweeney since he kissed her in kindergarten. She orders Veronica to forge a romantic note from him and give it to Martha. Veronica tries to stop them but backs down when the Heathers threaten to destroy her social life ("Candy Store"). Their threats are witnessed by a mysterious, trenchcoat-wearing, Baudelaire-quoting new kid, Jason "J.D." Dean, who criticizes Veronica for betraying her friend in exchange for popularity. Ram and Kurt take the opportunity to pick a fight with him, and he unexpectedly fights back and defeats them. Watching the fight, Veronica finds herself attracted to the stranger ("Fight for Me"). At Veronica's house, Chandler ridicules her for being into someone below her social status and subtly insults her parents, who aren't sure they like their daughter's new friends ("Candy Store Playoff").

Veronica meets J.D. again in a 7-Eleven on her way to Ram's homecoming party. They hit it off, and he flirtatiously extols the virtues of the Slurpee, explaining he uses the brain-freeze to numb the pain of his troubled relationship with his father, the absence of his dead mother, and his nomadic lifestyle ("Freeze Your Brain").

Ram and Kurt's macho fathers leave for a fishing trip, roughing their sons up on the way out the door in a similar fashion to the way their sons treat the kids at school. With his folks gone, Ram starts the party, which quickly grows out of control as Veronica gets increasingly drunk ("Big Fun"). Martha shows up, thinking Ram invited her because of the note but is cruelly rebuffed. The Heathers try to prank her by dressing up a pig-shaped piñata to resemble her, but Veronica stops them and throws the piñata in the pool. She angrily resigns from the Heathers, but Heather Chandler refuses to allow her to walk away, threatening to ruin her social life. In response, the inebriated Veronica vomits on Heather's shoes, enraging her, and the frightened students turn their backs on her. Feeling she has nothing to lose now, she breaks into J.D.'s bedroom and seduces him, losing her virginity ("Dead Girl Walking").

After having a nightmare about Chandler tormenting her ("Veronica's Chandler Nightmare"), Veronica decides to go to her house to apologize, with J.D. tagging along. Heather orders Veronica to make her a hangover cure, and J.D., apparently jokingly, suggests putting toxic drain cleaner in it as revenge. Veronica tells him to stop, but in a distracted moment, grabs the wrong cup. J.D. notices the mix-up but says nothing as Chandler humiliates Veronica, rejects her apology, drinks the hangover cure, and dies. Fearing no one will believe it was an accident, Veronica freaks out until J.D. spots Heather's copy of The Bell Jar. He convinces Veronica to forge a suicide note. In the process, she makes Heather sound more deep and complex than she actually was, gaining her sympathy from the entire school and inspiring ex-hippie teacher Miss Fleming to start a school-wide campaign to prevent teenage suicide ("Me Inside Of Me").

With Heather Chandler dead, Heather Duke breaks free of her subservient status and assumes control. Veronica and J.D. watch her give sob story interviews on multiple news channels (and in multiple languages) at J.D.'s house, where Veronica witnesses first-hand J.D.'s tense relationship with his father, demolitions expert Big Bud Dean. Veronica's displeasure at the new status quo is equaled only by that of Chandler herself, who appears as a ghost to berate Veronica from beyond the grave. Veronica gets a call from Heather McNamara, begging her to come to the cemetery, and when she gets there, she discovers the Heathers have locked themselves in a car, trying to fend off a drunk Kurt and Ram. It emerges that they escaped date-rape by the intoxicated football players, who are desperate for sexual relief, by telling them that they can have Veronica. The boys aggressively beg her to have sex with them ("Blue"), but she escapes by giving them more alcohol until they pass out. The next day, Veronica discovers that Heather Duke has taken on Heather Chandler's role of leader, as she takes Heather Chandler's red scrunchie (a symbol of her power) from her locker, and that Ram and Kurt have told everyone that she had sex with them ("Blue (Reprise)"), and she is branded a slut by the other students ("Blue Playoff").

J.D. comforts her and enlists Veronica's help in a plan to get revenge on the two jocks. She lures them into the cemetery with the promise of making their lies about her come true, where J.D. explains that they will shoot them with special "Ich Lüge" (German for "I Am Lying") bullets which cause temporary unconsciousness, putting them out long enough for cops to find a forged suicide note proclaiming they're gay lovers. Once the jocks are in position, J.D. shoots Ram, but Veronica misses Kurt, who runs into the woods pursued by J.D. As Veronica realizes Ram is dead and the bullets are real, J.D. shoots Kurt down in cold blood, and proclaims his undying love to a horrified Veronica ("Our Love is God").

Act 2 Edit

At Ram and Kurt's joint funeral, a distraught Veronica reflects on Ram and Kurt, musing that they could have potentially outgrown their immaturity, however, their lives were cut short before they were given the chance ("Prom or Hell?"). Their fathers unexpectedly decide to accept their sons' homosexuality, even more unexpectedly reveal their own past love affair during a fishing trip, and vow to work towards making the world a more tolerant place ("My Dead Gay Son"). Seeing this as a sign their murders are making the world a better place, J.D. tries to convince Veronica they should make Heather Duke their next target. She refuses, provoking a furious rant about the way society creates pain and misery. Sensing the deeper pain driving his fury, Veronica asks J.D. how his mother died, and learns that he watched her commit suicide by walking into a building his father was demolishing just before it was blown up. Attempting to get through to him, Veronica begs him to give up trying to change the world through violence and live a normal life with her ("Seventeen").

Martha asks Veronica for help breaking into J.D.'s locker, as she suspects he murdered the football players, insisting Ram couldn't be gay because of the love note he wrote her. Knowing that if Martha found anything incriminating she would become J.D.'s next target and also fearing that her own role in the killings might be discovered, Veronica listens to ghostly Heather Chandler's advice and drives Martha away by confessing she wrote the note and that Ram thought she was a loser. Martha runs off in tears.

School guidance counselor Pauline Fleming holds a televised therapy assembly in order to aid the student body and prevent any more suicides from happening, and coincidentally to promote Fleming's controversial therapeutic techniques on live television ("Shine a Light"). Heather McNamara is the only one to step forward, confessing she's thought about killing herself due to the overwhelming peer pressure she faces every day ("Lifeboat"). Duke turns on her, whipping the other students into a frenzy and mocking her. Veronica lashes out at Ms. Fleming for taking advantage of the publicity and not protecting McNamara, and in her rage, she confesses to the murders. No one believes her, thinking she is just desperate for attention. She follows McNamara to the school bathroom, where she catches her attempting to overdose on a bottle of sleeping pills ("Shine a Light (Reprise)"). Veronica stops her in time and comforts her. J.D. tries to talk her into killing Duke again, and Veronica realizes he is carrying around a loaded gun. Realizing how unstable he is, Veronica breaks up with him. They argue, and he accidentally points the gun at her. She storms out, leaving him alone, as the other students (including Heather McNamara) come out revealing that there is going to be a pep rally later that night ("Hey Yo, Westerburg").

J.D. confronts Duke with evidence that she and Martha were friends when they were children, and blackmails her into getting all the kids at school to sign a petition declaring a holiday in remembrance of the victims of suicide. Martha, unnoticed by everyone and mourning her beloved Ram, tries to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge ("Kindergarten Boyfriend"). She survives with a few broken bones, and her suicide is derided as a failed attempt to imitate the popular kids. Veronica rushes to the hospital as the ghosts of Kurt, Ram, and Heather Chandler taunt her with the realization that she has become as awful as Chandler ("Yo Girl"). When she returns home her parents confront her, telling her J.D. has told them she is suicidal, and she realizes J.D. plans to make her his next victim. He breaks into her room, wielding a gun, as she barricades herself in the closet. Increasingly unhinged, he tells her he's changed his mind about killing her, believing the solution to their problem is to kill the student body that's brainwashed her. He reveals that the petition, signed by every student at Westerburg, was actually a disguised suicide note, and he plans to blow up the school while everyone's at a pep rally, making it look like a mass suicide. Growing impatient, he breaks open the door, and finds Veronica dangling from a noose. Grief-stricken, he rushes out to complete his plan in her memory ("Meant to Be Yours").

Veronica, however, has faked her suicide, and grabs a croquet mallet to put an end to J.D.'s madness, even if she has to die in the process. ("Dead Girl Walking (Reprise)"). She confronts him as he's setting up the bomb in the boiler room underneath the gym. She begs him one final time to stop, but he refuses to listen, and she attacks him. In their struggle, his gun goes off, and J.D. collapses with a bullet in his gut. Having no idea how to disarm the bomb, Veronica takes it out to the empty football field, intending to save the other students by sacrificing herself. J.D., still alive, follows her and convinces her to let him take the bomb instead ("I Am Damaged"), asking her to do something good with her life. The bomb goes off, killing J.D. and leaving everyone else unharmed.

Returning to the school singed but alive, Veronica takes the red scrunchie from Heather Duke, tying it in her own hair, and declares to the student body that the era of constant ridicule and belittlement is over. Veronica invites Martha and Heather McNamara to hang out, rent a movie, and simply be kids for a little while before their childhoods are over ("Seventeen (Reprise)").

Musical numbersEdit Edit

Act 1
  • Beautiful – Veronica and Students
  • Candy Store – H. Chandler, H. McNamara, and H. Duke
  • Fight for Me – Veronica and Students
  • Candy Store Playoff † – H. Chandler, H. McNamara, and H. Duke
  • Freeze Your Brain – J.D.
  • Big Fun – Ram, Kurt, Veronica, H. Chandler, H. McNamara, H. Duke, and Ensemble
  • Dead Girl Walking – Veronica and J.D.
  • Veronica's Chandler Nightmare † – H. Chandler and Ensemble
  • The Me Inside of Me – H. Chandler, Veronica, J.D., Cops, Ms. Fleming, and Company
  • Blue – Ram, Kurt, H. McNamara, and H. Duke
  • Blue (Reprise) † – Ram, Kurt, H. Duke, H. McNamara, and Students
  • Blue Playoff † – Students
  • Our Love Is God – J.D., Veronica, and Kurt
Act 2
  • Prom or Hell? † – Veronica
  • My Dead Gay Son – Ram's Dad, Kurt's Dad, and Mourners
  • Seventeen – Veronica and J.D.
  • Shine a Light – Ms. Fleming and Students
  • Lifeboat – H. McNamara
  • Shine a Light (Reprise) – H. Duke and Students
  • Hey Yo, Westerburg † – H. McNamara and Students
  • Kindergarten Boyfriend – Martha
  • Yo Girl – H. Chandler, Ram, and Kurt
  • Meant to Be Yours – J.D. and Students
  • Dead Girl Walking (Reprise) – Veronica, J.D., and Students
  • I Am Damaged – J.D. and Veronica
  • Seventeen (Reprise) – Veronica, Martha, H. McNamara, and Company

† Not featured on World Premiere Cast Recording

Background Edit

The show's director, Andy Fickman, had been working with Daniel Waters (the screenwriter of the film) on the musical. After seeing Laurence O'Keefe's work with Legally Blonde and how he transitioned film to theatre, he decided to pair him with Reefer Madness collaborator Kevin Murphy. Flickman said of the experience, "we found that Heathers gave a great deal of opportunity for '80s commentary and a great chance for music and storytelling". [1]

Productions Edit

Development Edit

There was a reading sometime in 2010, with Kristen Bell as Veronica, Christian Campbell as J.D., and Jenna Leigh Green, Corri English, and Christine Lakin as the Heathers.[2]

On September 13–14, 2010, it was presented as a concert at Joe's Pub. The show was directed by Andy Fickman, and it starred Annaleigh Ashford as Veronica Sawyer, Jeremy Jordan as Jason Dean, Jenna Leigh Green as Heather Chandler, Corri English as Heather McNamara, and Christine Lakin as Heather Duke, James Snyder as Kurt Kelly, PJ Griffith as Ram Sweeney, Julie Garnyé as Martha "Dumptruck" Dunnstock, Eric Leviton as Ram's Dad, Kevin Pariseau as Kurt's Dad/Principal, Jill Abramovitz as Ms. Fleming/Veronica's Mom, Tom Compton as Hipster Dork/Preppy Kid, Alex Ellis as Goth Girl/English Teacher/Young Republicanette, and Kelly Karbacz as Stoner Chick/School Psychologist.[3]

Los Angeles Edit

The show played at the Hudson Backstage Theatre in Los Angeles for a limited engagement on the weekends from September 21, 2013 to October 6, 2013. The cast included Barrett Wilbert Weed as Veronica, Ryan McCartan as J.D., Sarah Halford as Heather Chandler, Kristolyn Lloyd as Heather Duke, and Elle McLemore as Heather McNamara.[4]

Off-Broadway Edit

In 2013, it was announced that Heathers: The Musical would be brought to Off-Broadway, previews beginning in March at New World Stages, directed by Andy Fickman. Coincidentally, New World is also the name of the original film's distributor. In February 2014, the cast was announced, including Barrett Wilbert Weed, Ryan McCartan, and Elle McLemore reprising their roles as Veronica, J.D, and Heather McNamara, respectively, with new additions to the cast being Jessica Keenan Wynn as Heather Chandler and Alice Lee as Heather Duke.[5] The show began previews on March 15, 2014, and opened on March 31, 2014.

A cast album was recorded on April 15–16, 2014 with an in-store and digital release of June 17, 2014.[6] It was released a week early on June 10, 2014.

Heathers: The Musical played its final performance at New World Stages on August 4, 2014.[7][8][permanent dead link]

Notable US regional productions Edit

In 2016 White Plains Performing Arts Center presented the NY Regional Premiere of the production to sold out audiences.

Australia Edit

The Australian premiere of Heathers: The Musical at the Hayes Theatre in Sydney was staged in July-August 2015. Directed by Trevor Ashley with choreography by Cameron Mitchell, it starred Jaz Flowers as Veronica Sawyer, Stephen Madsen as Jason "J.D." Dean, Lucy Maunder as Heather Chandler, Erin Clare as Heather McNamara, and Libby Asciak as Heather Duke.[9] The well-received production transferred the following year, with mostly the same cast, for seasons in Brisbane (Playhouse, Queensland Performing Arts Centre) in January 2016, Melbourne (Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne) in May 2016, and the Sydney Opera House's Playhouse in June 2016.[10][11][12]

Cast Edit

Character Joe's Pub (2010) Los Angeles (2013) Original Off-Broadway (2014) The Other Palace London (2017)
Veronica Sawyer Annaleigh Ashford Barrett Wilbert Weed Charlotte Wakefield
Jason "J.D." Dean Jeremy Jordan Ryan McCartan Jamie Muscato
Heather Chandler Jenna Leigh Green Sarah Halford Jessica Keenan Wynn Amy Ross
Heather McNamara Corri English Elle McLemore Sophie Isaacs
Heather Duke Christine Lakin Kristolyn Lloyd Alice Lee Gabrielle Lewis-Dodson
Martha Dunnstock Julie Garnye Katie Ladner Lizzie Bea
Kurt Kelly James Snyder Evan Todd[a] Liam Doyle
Ram Sweeney Pj Griffith Jon Eidson Dominic Andersen
Beleaguered Geek Tom Compton Zach Bandler Dustin Sullivan Jack North
Preppy Stud/Officer Milner N/A AJ Meijer N/A
Hipster Dork/Officer McCord N/A Trevor Shor Dan Domenech N/A
New Wave Girl Alex Ellis Charissa Hogeland Maimuna Mamon [b]
Stoner Chick N/A Rachel Flynn Lauran Rae
Young Republicanette N/A Cait Fairbanks N/A
Bill Sweeney/Big Bud Dean/Coach Ripper Eric Leviton Rex Smith Anthony Crivello Simon Bailey [c]
Paul Kelly/Mr. Sawyer/Principal Gowan Zachary Ford Daniel Cooney Andy Brady [d]
Mrs. Sawyer/Pauline Fleming Jill Abramovitz Rena Strober Michelle Duffy[e] Rebecca Lock
Swings N/A Molly Hager N/A
N/A Matthew Schatz N/A
Notes
  1. ^ Although Evan Todd was the Kurt Kelly of record at the time of closing, the role of Kurt Kelly was played by Dan Domenech at the final performance.
  2. ^ Also played Coach Ripper
  3. ^ Only played Bill Sweeney and Police Officer
  4. ^ Also played the role of Big Bud Dean
  5. ^ Although Michelle Duffy was the Mrs. Sawyer/Pauline Fleming of record at the time of closing, the role was played by Molly Hager at the final performance.

Awards and nominations Edit

Original Off-Broadway Production Edit

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2014 Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Music Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Barrett Wilbert Weed Nominated
Lucille Lortel Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical Nominated
Outstanding Choreographer Marguerite Derricks Nominated

Heathers The Musical (High School Edition) Edit

Following its 2014 Off-Broadway run, the musical gained cult status from audiences that mirrored the characters at the fictional Westerburg High, and multiple high schools were putting in requests for the licensing rights; accordingly, an abridged "PG-13" version was prepared, newly revised by writers Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, iTheatrics, and licensing company Samuel French specifically for student productions.[13] Most of the profanity in the show was deleted, "Big Fun" and "Dead Girl Walking" received rewritten lyrics and one new song, "You're Welcome" was written for the show to replace "Blue".

The world premiere of Heathers The Musical: High School Edition took place on September 15, 2016, at Pearce Theatre, J.J. Pearce High School, Richardson, Texas.[14] Directed and choreographed by Heather Biddle, the cast included Adi Bitton as Veronica Sawyer, Trevor Norris as Jason “J.D.” Dean, Erica Newberg as Heather Chandler, Kristen Harrington as Heather McNamara, Sarah Peterson as Heather Duke, Megan Droste as Martha Dunnstock, Josh Kane as Kurt Kelly, and Grant Oliphint as Ram Sweeney.[15]

External links Edit

  • Heathers - The Musical on Facebook