I was a senior in high school when the movie Heathers was released. It was a box office flop, but I was mesmerised by the way the movie captured the hidden truths of high school life for me. Over the years, it became a highly respected cult classic. Now, it has been turned into a musical stage play.
I was really worried that a musical version of one of the blackest teen comedies ever made would be a disaster. But my fears were misplaced. Heathers: The Musical is a high-energy, colorful piece of fun with catchy songs, without sacrificing the darker aspects.
The stage version sticks pretty close to the original script, so if you’ve seen the movie, you’ve seen the play. It even uses some of the same dialogue. But that doesn’t mean you should skip the musical. The addition of songs to the story enables the characters to flesh themselves out more, and add some flavor to some of the scenes.
Molly Denninghoff, Colleen Grate, and Chioma Anyanwu play the Heathers, and they were awesome. They nailed the viciously vapid beautiful mean girls. Even the way they walked, as if they were hovering just above the ground, was remarkable.
Katie Karel plays Veronica. In this play she looks uncannily like Winona Ryder in the movie. She does great as the girl trying to reconcile her desire for justice with her distaste for blood, knowing that adults are no help whatsoever.
The pivotal character of J.D. is played by Thomas Delgado. This is his first show at the Unicorn, and while this would be a daunting role to start your Unicorn career, Delgado makes it work. He wisely doesn’t try to imitate Christian Slater’s character – he makes J.D. into a different, but effective young psychotic.
Even though she has a pretty small role, I have to mention Shon Ruffin, who plays Martha Dunnstock. You know, Martha Dumptruck. When she’s on stage, she brings a charisma and a pathetic friendliness to her character that almost steals the scenes. And her song, “Kindergarten Boyfriend” is a show-stopper. This is Shon’s Unicorn debut, and I certainly hope we see her again.
The play was co-directed by Cynthia Levin and Missy Koonce, two of the hardest working and most talented theater artists in Kansas City. There is nobody I would trust to handle this play other than these two. And they’ve hit a home run. They deftly weave the scenes and characters into one flowing tapestry of harmonic and deadly teen angst.
Heathers: The Musical is a fun show that leaves you with things to think about. You won’t find anything like it in town.
Heathers: The Musical plays through July 3. For tickets, call 816-531-7529 or go to unicorntheatre.org