Reboots of iconic and/or cult classics are always challenging and controversial: Psycho, Star Trek, Ghostbusters … If you happen to be obsessed with the original material, deviations from the source can be … upsetting. And so, after seeing Heathers: The Musical, I left Theatre on the Square with a heavy heart. Heathers was and still is a staple in my movie collection. It’s my generation. I already knew the music was pretty formulaic, having listened to the soundtrack many times. But the gleeful, darkly vicarious experience of the movie—I would have loved to serve up some cups of Drano to several students in my high school—simply doesn’t translate to the stage.
With that said, TOTS’s production has its pros and cons. Let’s start with the pros.
- Director Zack Neiditch and choreographer Annalee Traeger created a most excellent slo-mo fight scene for “Fight for Me.” The cast’s expressions are priceless, and they pull off the effect perfectly.
- Also absolutely hilarious is “Blue,” a song performed by Joe Mount as Ram and Nic Nightingale as Kurt. Call me immature, but these guys pull off the crazy lyrics in a LOL yet totally believable way. (“They’re warm like mittens./They’ll curl up on your face/And purr like kittens!/You make my balls so blue!”)
- Clay Mabbitt as Ram’s dad and Ryan Ruckman as Kurt’s dad give an equally comical performance of “My Dead Gay Son.”
- Clayton Marcum as JD has an excellent voice.
- As do Sommer O’Donnell as Martha and Jenny Reber as Heather McNamara in their solos “Kindergarten Boyfriend” and “Lifeboat,” respectively.
- The live band is fantastic.
And so, the cons.
- Veronica’s “transformation” from geek to hottie entails a wardrobe change. Period. It’s on par with She’s All That: take Laney’s glasses off and bam! She’s a babe! And Veronica’s hair is all wrong.
- The costumes are hit and miss. JD’s trench coat is OK, but the jeans and T-shirt are too 1990s. Heather Chandler’s spangly party dress is a disaster. OK for prom, not a house party.
- Miranda Nehrig’s (as Veronica) vocals are capricious. Sometimes she hits that goal note, but sometimes … she doesn’t.
- A lot of the choreography uses moves too reminiscent of Grease.
- Heather McNamara’s character is a doppelganger for Sara Jessica Parker in Hocus Pocus.
- The set is minimalistic. I went in anticipating that TOTS would pull out all the stops, seeing as this slot had originally been reserved for RENT. But, no.