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REVIEW: Heathers - Santa Ana College Theatre Arts

The Santa Ana College Theatre Arts Department presents “Heathers: The Musical,” a pitch-black comedy rock musical based on the 1988 film, “Heathers,” playing at the Phillips Hall Theatre on campus, October 12th, 13th & 14th, and again this next weekend on the 20th and 21st at 7:30pm. Written by Daniel Waters, the book, music, and lyrics are by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe.

The musical deals with the same serious cutting-edge issues, like school bullying, teen sexuality, campus shootings, bomb threats and suicide epidemics. Heathers introduces stock characters instantly recognizable in practically any high school - Jocks, cheerleaders, losers, dweebs and nerds. Leads Veronica and JD are your typical misunderstood-yet-good-looking outcasts. The show seems to take a page right out of Mean Girls – or actually the other way around, since the film was produced first.

Riding herd on those different groups of losers is a tight circle of popular senior girls known as the Heathers (because, duh, they’re all named Heather). Heather Chandler, Heather McNamara, and Heather Duke are the coolest kids in school, as well as absolutely the most malicious, and from whom one word can mean total acceptance or social banishment.

When Veronica (Ashley Montgomery) does the Heathers a favor, they take her under their wing. She quickly learns, however, that popularity comes with a price, like ditching her longtime friend, the overweight Martha Dunnstock (Chancey Allen). Martha is the butt of everyone’s constant bullying and belittling, but has a good loyal heart. Also with social popularity comes a required level of sadistic cruelty that Veronica can’t seem to stomach, so she quietly defects from the inner circle. Hooking up with moody bad boy Jason “J.D.” Dean (Carter Thomas), a long-haired rebel, she unwittingly becomes complicit in his homicidal takedowns of the school’s vicious popular girls and those rude, aggressive, somewhat perverted football players, Kurt Kelly (Wayne Remington) and Ram Sweeney (Justin Crawford).

Terrifying top girl Heather Chandler is ferociously funny in Ashley Gates’ absolutely terrific performance. Asialani Holman makes a rather sweet dumb bunny of Heather McNamara, and that utterly untrustworthy Heather Duke is all teeth and nails in Megan Kerrigan’s manic character role.

The show is bumped up a notch portraying the cruelness of the popular crowd and the rebellion against it: The popular kids are murdered by poisoning and shooting and their suicide notes are forged. There are two more "real" attempted suicides, some self-mutilation, and bulimia. There's lots of gunplay by the main characters and one bloody scene. Psychopath J.D. attempts to blow up the school and all its students with dynamite. Several of the characters are sexually active and speak crudely about it. And there's plenty of harsh and homophobic language.

Taking the best elements from the cult classic and wonderfully bringing the characters to life on stage, “Heathers: The Musical” shows perfectly the pain, conflict, and ultimate loneliness of adolescence. At the same time, it brilliantly illustrates, in a comical backhanded way, a firm conviction of how good can come from tragedy, with tolerance and understanding being the ultimate message of the show.

Director, Chris Cannon says, "Heathers could be considered controversial to be sure, but I think it's fascinating that the show's popularity did not originate from its critics or its controversial themes, but from the audiences that have become enthralled with its comedic spin on teenage angst…”

Come see this terrifically well-acted show! If only for the music! The cast, ensemble, and musicians are amazing! Two more nights are available – this Friday and Saturday. Tickets for Heathers: The Musical, start at $15, and are available online at Santa Ana College is located on the corner of N. Bristol Street and W. 17th Street at 1530 W. 17th Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706.

Chris Daniels

Arts Reviewer

National Youth Theatre


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