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Review: HEATHERS Packs a Punch from Actor's Express and Oglethorpe University

The Off-Broadway hit runs through October 17

In a flurry of hormones, hot-heads, and Heathers, you'll find an incredible hybrid cast of students and professionals singing their hearts out in HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL, a co-production between Actor's Express and Oglethorpe University Theatre. The show is a raucous delight full of stellar vocal performances, fantastic character choices, and some killer looks. Based on the 1980s cult classic movie starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, HEATHERS is a story about the cost of starting a clique war in high school.

Now, what's an opening night during Mercury Retrograde without a few technical errors? The night I was able to see the show, microphones fell off of actors as they dodged doors and clung to costume pieces. Undaunted, the cast swiftly navigated each snafu with serious skill. Watching them adapt gave the performance a curious sense of reality - as if I was watching real high schoolers on stage. It's incredibly charming to watch artists overcome obstacles in real-time.

To be honest, it was difficult to tell who was an Oglethorpe student and who was a professional actor on stage. I'll let you watch the show and see if you can figure it out without me telling you.

An ever-present threat to high schoolers everywhere, the Heathers - Chandler, McNamara, and Duke - are an iconic trio played by equally iconic women. Emily Whitley's venomous Heather Chandler is every bit as sharp, evil, and hot as you'd hope her to be. Chloe Campbell's shy Heather McNamara has a strong sense of depth behind her hard veneer. And Wynne Kelly's cutthroat Heather Duke could give the movie version of her a run for her money.

Playing everyone's favorite toxic couple, Veronica and J.D., are Alexandria Joy and Jordan Patrick. Joy brings a tough and grounded presence to Veronica; you never question her strength, wit, willingness to fight. Patrick's balls-to-the-wall performance is so effective that there were moments in the show that I felt Christian Slater had been copied/pasted from the original movie. Together, their chemistry was palpable and it was hard not to hope they'd work it out in the end.

It must have gotten pretty cold to be half-naked on stage for half the show but Niko Carleo and Zion Glenn, Kurt and Ram respectively, took it like champs. Their dynamic energy bounced and played off of each other with ease as if they were tossing a football back and forth on stage.

Caroline Gammage broke my heart with her genuinely wholesome Martha. With a whole lot of heart and a massive amount of courage, Gammage has zero shame, bombastic confidence, and an impressive belting range on stage.

Rounding out the cast is a colorful array of geeks, preps, dorks, stoners, and unwitting adults. Each school kid has a moment to shine, and shine they do. The three adults take turns terrorizing the stage. Daniel Burns and Brian Kurlander dad-it-up together, striking a perfect balance between just-on-the-sidelines and scene-stealing. Wendy Melkonian runs a one-woman show playing all of the adult women on stage, prancing around preaching about feelings and never missing a moment to have a bit of fun.

Donned in tried-and-true classics, the core characters are costumed in pieces almost exactly the same as their 80s movie counterparts. Next to them in the bleachers, however, are the rest of their classmates in TikTok-inspired looks. With daring, trendy pieces and bold styling, the anachronistic mash-up of student life on stage cleverly ties the main themes of the show back to present-day problems with a big, fat, red scrunchie.

Westerburg High, where HEATHERS takes place, is a big school. Complete with upper, mid, and lower levels, there is a ton of playing space available for the characters to romp, fight, and die on. While the action of the show uses the full stage, I wish I'd seen more variety of levels in the dance choreography. With the option to fill the stage top to bottom with each song, I'm curious why they chose not to take it.

If you're in a Halloween-type mood and down to see a cult classic come to life onstage, then HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL is a must-see this October. You're sure to have some "Big Fun" revisiting high school.

HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL runs through October 17th. You can find more information and purchase your tickets here!

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From This Author - Ella Embry

Ella Outlaw is a Mississippi Writer, Atlanta Producer, Atlanta Theatre Critic, and Your Friendly, Neighborhood Tarot Reader. 

IG: ella_outlaw_

Twitter: ella_outlaw_

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