Thursday, May 23, 2024

Theater Review: “Heathers” at Broward Center

Last weekend, Slow Burn Theatre opened its production of “Heathers,” a musical adaptation of the of ahead-of-its-time cult movie about the dangers of high school cliques. The “Heathers,” if you’ll recall from the film, are the popular mean girls, all named Heather, who rule their school, until a new initiate teams up with a psychotic rebel student to disrupt the status quo—with the help of drain cleaner and a drive for vigilante justice. We sent our summer intern Shellie Frie to review the production, which runs through June 26.

In his curtain speech before the opening night of “Heathers” last weekend, Slow Burn Theatre Artistic Director Patrick Fitzwater said that this musical is rated R for its raunchy behavior. I thought he was being hyperbolic, but a few minutes into the performance, I knew to take him seriously. The musical is filled with cursing, sex and alcohol—but then again, what can you expect from a high school in the 1980s?

Sean McLelland’s nostalgic set design perfectly evokes the period with brightly colored lockers, shoulder-padded costumes and meticulously curled hair. The first song, “Beautiful,” sets the stage for the rest of the production. It labels each character with the usual high-school hierarchal stereotypes—“hipster,” nerd,” “loser”—and introduces the audience to the popular and beautiful “Heathers.” While the “Heathers” clique is comprised of the most envied girls at school, director Fitzwater does not shy away from bringing out their candid and ruthless behavior. The main “Heather,” Heather Chandler (Leah Sessa), is presented with a red glow and a devilish smile.

The actors are given distinct personalities and play each character with a high degree of relatability, each developing deeply during the two-hour running time. The musical’s book, by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, carefully and correctly lifts the funniest lines from the movie, and Fitzwater’s cast nails every joke and pun. As leading character Veronica, Abby Perkins does not come across as strong and edgy as Winona Ryder did in the movie, but is rather vulnerable and insecure. Her relationship with her parents makes her seem childish, which contrasts with the dirty crimes she commits with her boyfriend, JD (Bruno Faria). The JD and Veronica love story is more prevalent in the musical than in the film; the song “Our Love is God” almost makes the audience wish it had a deranged teenage lover—almost.

Faria’s performance is spectacular. JD’s passion for a world without labels and mean girls make him loveable, yet his growing anger and wicked behavior make him psychotic, and Faria communicates both extremes. I got the chance to speak to Faria, and when asked how it felt to play such a deranged character, he said he loved it. He said JD was able to give the musical “ground” and make it feel more “real and beautiful,” and I have to agree. The musical does a beautiful job in making such a morbid series of events hilarious and believable.

Tickets for “Heathers” run $45. Call 954/462-0222 or visit browardcenter.org.

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