Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Coventry High School Drama’s current show is “Heathers, the Musical”, the Rhode Island premier of PG 13 version of this musical. It was written by Laurence O’Keefe who created “Legally Blonde” and Kevin Murphy of Reefer Madness. Their terrific pop score expands the story while keeping the black edge comedy of the original movie. “Heathers, the Musical” is the darkly, delicious story of Veronica Sawyer, a brainy, beautiful teenage misfit who hustles her way into the most powerful and ruthless clique at Westerberg High: The Heathers. But before she can get comfortable at the top of the high school food chain, Veronica falls in love with the dangerously, sexy new kid, J.D. When Heather Chandler, the almighty, kicks her out of the group, Veronica decides to bite the bullet and kiss Heather’s aerobicized ass, But J.D. has another plan for that bullet.
“Heathers, the Musical” is an hilarious, heartfelt and homicidal new show based on the greatest teen comedy of all time with its moving love story, laugh out loud comedy and anguish of high school. The show even though it’s a comedy, deals with teen issues of suicide, bullying, homophobia and gun violence. This musical is based on the 1988 movie starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. The movie was a black comedy where outsiders took on the obnoxious clique in high school. Director Mychael Wilkinson casts his high energy member cast while musical director Kristen St. Sauver taught them the gorgeous harmonies in the group numbers. Choreographers Mikayla Branning and Jessica Nietupski supply the creative dance steps for the show. Their combined expertise wins them a standing ovation at the close of the night.
Mychael lets each member of the cast shine and elicits strong performances from them. Kristen taught them some difficult numbers and they sound amazing. Some of the audience favorites are the opening “Beautiful”, where the audience learns that Veronica wants the cutthroat atmosphere of school to disappear, “Lifeboat”, where Heather McNamara hopes to survive the horrors of school, “My Dead Gay Son” sung wonderfully by Mr. Kyle Pendola as Ram’s dad and by Mr. Jason Gomes as Kurt’s dad, it stops the show with hilarity and has a funny twist during it and “Seventeen”, a beautiful song about enjoying being that age. Lauren Kennelly is terrific as the spunky, Veronica. The character starts off writing in her diary how horrible school is until she becomes a member of the Heathers clique. She learns along the way that being popular isn’t all it is cracked up to be and be careful what you wish for. Her lovely voice is heard in “Beautiful”, the opening number and “Dead Girl Walking” when she defies Heather Chandler’s demands. She also sings “The Me Inside of Me” with the chorus about the real person trying to get out of each of the teens. Her interactions with the whole cast are marvelous.
The very evil Heather Chandler is played by Allison Vanasse. She is a true bitch on wheels as this character as she runs roughshod on everyone around her. This Heather receives her comeuppance but sticks around to comment on the happenings in the school. The lady in waiting, Heather McNamara is well played by Hannah Lanoue who contemplates suicide and is finally rescued by Veronica while the resentful, underling, Heather Duke also well played by Elisabeth Shortall who encourages McNamara to off herself. Hannah sings the emotion packed “Lifeboat” when she contemplates suicide. There is another disturbing scene where these two girls trick Veronica to come and meet them when two football jocks want their way with them. The two meathead football players are fabulously played by Aidan Lamont as Ram and Jacob Card as Kurt. They verbally abuse everyone in the school, sing a threatening number to Veronica called “You’re Welcome” when they attempt to have their way with her. They steal many a scene with their naughty and bawdy antics. They also sing “Yo Girl” with Allison to urge Veronica to do something to stop the madness at the school.
The scary black trench coat new boy in the school, J.D. is excellently played by Marcus Evans who scares the crap out of the audience from his first entrance to his last. The slow motion fight scene between the two jocks and him in slow motion is one of the funniest scenes in the show. He displays his strong voice in “Freeze Your Brain”, the 7/11 slurpee song is funny while “Dead Girl Walking” duet is properly menacing as is “Our Love is God.” Marcus’ real life mom, Jeanne Evans plays Ms Fleming, the kooky resource teacher who sings an upbeat song called “Shine” on TV with her students. Alaina Furtado is fantastic as Martha, the school laughing stock. She sings the most poignant song in the show called “Kindergarten Boyfriend” which tugs on your heartstrings. It also helps Veronica realize that Martha has been her one true friend since they were in diapers. Kudos to the whole cast and crew for doing a terrific job. So for a topnotch contemporary musical that will leave you thinking especially in the political climate of this country now, be sure to catch “Heathers, the Musical”, a clever and daring musical that will not only entertain you but educate you at the same time.
HEATHERS, THE MUSICAL (7 to 9 December)
Coventry High School, 40 Reservoir Road, Coventry, RI
Tickets available at the door