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Heathers, the musical (review)… What’s Your Damage? March 22, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Uncategorized.
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Seen in preview March 22, 2014 – the production opens officially on 3/31.

Much in the way Kinky Boots won me over last year over all the larger budget musicals I had seen last spring, Heathers, the musical, now previewing at New World Stages off-Broadway won me over as this spring’s favorite new musical.

Working from the original movie script, writers Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness) and Laurence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde, Bat Boy) have crafted a hilarious new musical theater work that takes edgy material yet presents it in a very traditionally musical theater way.

Outsider Veronica Sawyer (an uncannily talented Barrett Wilbert Weed) meets bad boy JD (Ryan McCartan) who begins open season on bitch-girls the Heathers (Jessica Keenan Wynn, Elle McLemore, and Alice Lee) and football players Ram (Jon Eidson) and Kurt (Evan Todd). This core of young actors is probably the strongest ensemble cast you are likely to see in NYC this spring. They are supported by an excellent ensemble that play multiple roles. The “Heathers” are theater-naturals — and the ladies here make the most of those juicy roles — Alice Lee does things with her eyes I’ve never seen anywhere, its almost worth the price of admission just to see her facial expressions. Barrett is a triple-threat: singing, acting, dancing, and she exudes charisma from her first scene to the last.

The score is tuneful and has at least one certifiable hit in “Seventeen”. The songs all skew toward humor, with a particular highlight being Dan Cooney and Anthony Crivello’s “My Dead Gay Son”. Direction by Andy Fickman and choreographty by Marguerite Derricks is fast-paced and solid, yet also very focused for a musical of this kind — they direct your eye directly where it needs to go, and there isn’t a misplaced step in the entire show. For a musical that still has a week of previews, its pretty much ready to go.

I expect this to be a big hit in NYC — and hopefully it will lead to a Broadway transfer, where it solidly belongs. But its an easy one-block walk across 8th Avenue to the New World Stages theater “multiplex” (remember when this used to be our newest neighborhood movie theater?)

The crowd at today’s performance was enthusiastic and ate up the humor. It should be noted that this is a big, competently done musical theater work, not a small off-Broadway spoof of the movie — its a solid, well-crafted, and well-polished piece.

Timothy R. Mackabee has created a nice set, and Jason Lyons lighting design is sharp, colorful, and works well throughout — even creating an explosion effect in the final sequence. Very nice.

If I had the time, I would go back and see this again tonight (alas, Bullets Over Broadway becons on my last evening in NYC), and then I would get tickets for myself and friends for next weekend…and probably the one after that as well. This show is that good.

Very Highly Recommended.

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