Heathers the Musical, with book, music, and lyrics by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe, based on the film written by Daniel Waters, is an outrageous satire on teenage angst, now being brilliantly performed by the cast at North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre.
All the problems of high school socializing and hierarchical competition are blown sufficiently out of proportion to make them feel as important as we all thought they were, if we’re long past that stage, and to stir the expanding minds of those still caught up in it.
The show treats suicide, which became trendy a few years back, and murder as a social changer, as well the brutality of bullying and the development of elitisms and sexual manipulations, the gay experience, and the need for escape including the use of drugs and the brain-freeze Slushie. It manages to balance on the tightrope between banality and reality with healthy servings of laugh-out-loud humor, becoming a cautionary tale for teachers and parents to listen to and hear their young people.
Director Peter Comperatore keeps the action fast-paced, and specific, managing a stage full of 17 energetic young adults suddenly diminishing to a couple and then filling again as suddenly. Scene changes occur as part of the action, and the story is constantly current and attention grasping. Unconventional casting magnifies the impact of the show.
Brianna Gilmore, a very young, but obviously very experienced choreographer, creates contemporary gesticulations, interestingly complex movements, both harsh and tender figures that illuminate the story and its emotional sculpture. We assume that she also deserves credit for the outstanding fight choreography.
Craig Johnson directs magnificent voices in combinations and solos that drive the story, embellished by the movements of the dancing.
Set designer Andrea Patterson encloses the stage in a feeling of public school, with multiple geometric shapes and colors, and provides functional elevations quickly formed site scenes for homes, bathrooms, and larger areas as well. Patterson also manages the lively cast well.
Veronica Sawyer, protagonist of the plot, is played with great range by Alissa Alba. She is at once sympathetic and charmingly humorous, tender hearted and clawingly ambitious, naive and scheming. Well done.
Melvin Gray, recently of William Peace University beautifully, understates the murderous intensity of JD, Veronica’s boyfriend and downfall. Even his singing is constrained, yet powerful, in both solos such as “Freeze Your Brain” and duets with Alba, especially “Our Love Is God.”
Heather Chandler, Veronica’s prime antagonist and the leader of “The Heathers,” is sung and acted by Emily Schmid. She gives her role a surly and dominating demeanor, power-struck and power-hungry. Very good!
Christine Lane gives us Heather Duke, usurper of the leadership role when the opportunity comes, a bulimic, bossy climber, with klepto tendencies.
The third of the elitists, Heather McNamara, is portrayed by Sabrina Palazzo, who makes a striking figure, and sings and dances wonderfully.
Martha Dunstock, the most picked on girl at school, is heart-wrenching and courageous as characterized by Hannah Marks, whose first crush now cruelly makes fun of her. “Kindergarten Boyfriend,” her lamenting song of that love, touches us deeply.
The entire ensemble performs admirably, with high energy, strong voices, and plenty of talent. This is a deep story, dealing with modern, touchy subjects and NRACT has wisely suggested it for mature audiences.
SECOND OPINION: July 16th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2016/07/heathers-at-nract-how-very/; and July 6th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Allison Hussey: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/heathers-the-musical/Event?oid=5044611.
The North Raleigh Arts and Creative Theatre presents HEATHERS THE MUSICAL at 8 p.m. July 22 and 23, 3 p.m. July 24, 8 p.m. July 29 and 30, and 3 p.m. July 31 at 7713-51 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27615, in the Greystone Village Shopping Center.
BOX OFFICE: 919-866-0228, email@example.com, or http://nract.org/tickets.
SHOW: http://www.nract.org/shows#/heathers/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/980491705353909.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://vimeo.com/174963922.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.nract.org/, https://www.facebook.com/NRACT, and https://twitter.com/NRACT.
Heathers (1988 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/19637/Heathers/ (Turner Classic Movies page), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097493/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heathers (Wikipedia).
Heathers the Musical (2014 Off-Broadway musical): http://heathersthemusical.com/ (official website), http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/56725/heathers-the-musical (Samuel French, Inc.), http://www.lortel.org/Archives/Production/5729 (Off-Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heathers:_The_Musical (Wikipedia).
Kevin Murphy (music, lyrics, and book): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevin_Murphy_%28screenwriter%29 (Wikipedia).
Laurence O’Keefe (music, lyrics, and book): http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0614441/ (Internet Movie Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurence_O’Keefe_%28composer%29 (Wikipedia).
Peter Comperatore (Raleigh, NC director): https://www.facebook.com/pete.comp.3 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.