Tuesday, December 8, 2015

theatre review - HEATHERS: THE MUSICAL - Stray Cat Theatre - December 4, 2015

Cole Brackney, Brittany Howk and Sara Sanderson
photo: John Groseclose
Click here for more information on this production that runs through December 20th.

"The satirical 1988 black comedy film Heathers has been turned into a nifty musical...Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy's adaptation also includes plenty of added comical moments and even a huge jolt of tenderness. Stray Cat Theatre presents the Arizona premiere of the pop rock musical in a smartly directed and well-cast production that perfectly portrays the struggles of high school and the neverending desire to fit in—no matter what the cost.... focuses on a high school in a fictional Ohio town where the popular kids, especially a trio of girls who are all named Heather, running the school. When Veronica, a former high school nobody, manages to join the trio it makes her popular but also forces her to serve as the protégé and lackey for the group. A budding romance after a run-in with new kid J.D. finds Veronica's life changed even more. When she realizes that the mean-spirited girls and other popular kids in the school are dangerous to the kids they don't like—she is forced to partake in some of the bullying herself—the mysterious, rebellious loner J.D. makes plans with her to get back at their fellow students.  Though the score isn't completely perfect... has several well-constructed numbers with witty, smart lyrics and recurring musical motifs that blend dialogue and character development, and drive the plot...Stray Cat's cast is just about flawless, with an exceptional turn from Brittany Howk as Veronica that gets to the heart and soul of this conflicted girl..J.D. is damaged, and (Cole) Brackney expertly, and slowly, lets us and Veronica realize that his character may be beyond repair. He and Howk also portray a realistic couple—murderous warts and all. As the three Heathers, Sara Sanderson, Taylor Moskowitz and Elyssa Blonder are all excellent at presenting three women who are very different from each other and believe that everything and everyone exists for their personal amusement. ...Director Louis Farber ...doesn't let the darkness of the story get downplayed as he allows the tenderness of the story to occasionally peek through, especially in the moving ending that culminates in showing the emotional impact of the struggle of getting through high school.... While Peter Bish's sound design is fine, on opening night there were numerous sound glitches and several times when the band overpowered the cast or lines of dialogue were completely lost. I'm not sure if these issues can easily be overcome or if this is just too big, and too loud, of a show for the Tempe Performing Arts Center.......Heathers: The Musical, while at times hilarious, is unflinchingly honest and smart and even strangely uplifting." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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