BWW Review: Ohio State's HEATHERS a Fun Show with a Frightening Message
For many, the thought of returning to high school is a horror movie plot, but the Ohio State University Department of Theatre's production of HEATHERS: The Musical shows just how terrifying teenage years can get.
Inspired by the eponymous 1988 dark comedy starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, HEATHERS takes place at the fictional Westerberg High School in Sherwood, Ohio. The school has its defined cliques of jocks, geeks and popular kids, but it's mainly controlled by a vicious group of plaid-skirted girls, all of whom share the first name of Heather.
The plot is narrated by Veronica, a senior who expresses her desire to escape small-town life and the high school hierarchy through sassily candid diary entries. As the musical's leading lady, Shelby Martell is an impressive actress in her Ohio State Department of Theatre debut. The first-year in music and speech and hearing science embraces her engaging, albeit flawed, character in a performance that smartly conveys high schoolers' awkwardness and angst. Like the rest of the cast, Martell fearlessly dives into Kevin Murphy and Laurence O'Keefe's wickedly comedic script, throwing herself into the show's most absurd moments. Her pluckiness is rewarded with big laughs from the audience in almost every scene.
Junior theatre major Albert Coyne is charming, yet chilling, in the role of JD, Veronica's love interest who moves to town with his father, Big Bud (Joe Gallagher). JD's brooding personality is intriguing and his intellect immediately attracts Veronica's interest -- after all, what girl could resist a guy who can poetically describe a 7-Eleven Slurpee? Even as they embark on a murderous rampage against fellow students, the pair endear themselves to the audience through moments that emphasize their youth and naïveté, especially in the songs "Our Love is God" and "Seventeen."
Other standout performances come from Hannah Halischak, a senior in theatre and strategic communication, whose portrayal of Heather Chandler, the ringleader of her exclusive friend group, is convincingly sinister. Sophomore Angela DiCocco, who is majoring in early childhood education with a minor in theatre, shines in the role of Martha, Veronica's sensitive friend and the school's main target of bullying. DiCocco makes the most of her character's moment in the spotlight in the song "Kindergarten Boyfriend," which showcases her singing abilities while highlighting the heartbreaking nostalgia of unrequited childhood puppy love.
As the musical's not-so-dynamic duo of football players, junior Dane Morey's Kurt and senior Leo de Andrade's Ram are surprisingly lovable antagonists, their shameful behavior satirized by raunchy lyrics in songs like "Blue."
Although opening night saw some audio balance issues and singing that was a little pitchy in places, all cast members were bursting with energy as they scuttled around the set, which cleverly shrinks the high school experience onto one stage.
Delving into the dark topics and hazards of high school, HEATHERS hides a frightening message under the frivolous frills of teenage drama and introduces a cult classic to a new generation.
The Ohio State University Department of Theatre will perform HEATHERS at the Drake Performance and Event Center's Thurber Theatre April 13 - 21.
More information about the show, including ticket pricing and directions, can be found on the department's website.
The Drake Performance and Event Center is located at 1849 Cannon Drive on OSU's Columbus campus.