BWW Review: HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL at Kennesaw State University
With the number of seasoned performers that Kennesaw State University churns out of its undergraduate Theatre and Performance Studies department, you might expect that their shows are top-notch. Your assumption would be correct. With years of perfecting classics ("Into the Woods," "Annie Get Your Gun") as well as more modern musicals ("Spring Awakening"), the program takes a bold move delivering HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL.
The cult musical, based on the 1988 movie of the same title, had an Off-Broadway run at New World Stages in 2014. The plotline, similar to the movie, deals with teenage obstacles (bullying, suicide, homosexuality) straight on thanks to the principle character Veronica, her psycho boyfriend JD and the Heathers. Besides an incredibly clever book and catchy songs, the show has become known for its crude language, timely lingo, catchphrases galore and lots of jokes that will leave you cringing in the best possible way.
With all this being said, I was excited to see how the largely student-based audience would react to the show. The reaction from myself and the theatre-goers was very popular, with "My Dead Gay Son" being the surprise hit of the show. While this number was hilarious, the opening number was one of my personal favorites. Andrea Mora, playing Veronica, lays the story out while showing powerhouse vocals and the naivety that the character must possess. The Heathers' entrance was particularly exceptional with an opening in the middle of the stage unveiling the most popular girls at the school while ensemble members sing in chant-like fashion, "Heather...Heather...Heather!" Very mythic.
I also thought "Blue" was oh, so very... clever. Though the actual concept of the song might be a little too brazen as "Me Too" statuses increase and Harvey Weinstein allegations run amuck, the song is quite hilarious. Hayden Rowe and Carson Seabolt, playing jocks Kurt and Ram, do an outstanding job in this number, as well as the whole show. They are inappropriate, childish jackasses, but you can't help but laugh at what they do every single time.
The entire ensemble, led by director Amanda Morgan, really does shine in this show. The cast remains versatile in managing multiple roles, manipulating set pieces and, most importantly, being bitchin'.
With choreography by Shuler Hensley Award winner Cindy Mora Reiser, there is an insane amount of dancing, movement and fight scenes that are worthy of applause. Honestly, I have never seen that much choreography in a show at Kennesaw. It was a pleasant surprise that reminded me that the cast's dance skills surpassed that of the Off-Broadway ensemble. Some of the most intense dancing can be seen in "Candy Store" where the Heathers have a little chat with Veronica about her place in the social hierarchy. Who says high school drama can't involve sashays and pirouettes?
Overall, a performance that pushes the boundaries while making you laugh. The dark humor can make you feel a little guilty. However, making "what's your damage?" your new favorite catchphrase might ease the pain a bit.
HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL is running at Kennesaw State University through November 12. The performance will be at the Howard Logan Stillwell Theater with student discounts available at the box office. All other tickets can be purchased online.