Just when you thought the story of the 1988 film “Heathers” couldn’t get any darker, someone went and made a musical about it. Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy adapted the cult movie starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater into a musical in 2010, playing off-Broadway in 2014. While it explores the same themes as the film -- gun violence, teen suicide, bullying and homophobia -- the musical perhaps conveys these emotional topics in a more powerful way.
This makes “Heathers: The Musical” absolutely perfect for Shot in the Dark Productions.
Joey Hartshorn directs this ensemble play, which debuts at 8 p.m. Friday (July 8) at the Evelyn Larson Theatre. “Heathers: The Musical” tells the story of misfit Veronica Sawyer who rejects Westerburg High’s hottest and cruelest clique -- made up of three girls named Heather -- for a her new boyfriend J.D., a dark figure who plans to put the Heathers in their rightful place. Which we suspect is somewhere between the ground beneath his feet and the center of the earth.
The 24-member cast plays nearly every typical ’80s high school movie stereotype -- from the stuck-up jocks and downright bitchy prep girls to the punk rock kids that don’t give a damn about anything but are quick to let you know if something’s a drag or not.
Whitney Wolf stars as Heather Chandler, who she describes as the “queen bee” of the school.
“She has high authority over everyone with a snap of a finger and can make an entire crowd go silent,” said Wolf. “She’s very materialistic and likes to be the center of attention. She’s also very manipulative and she can make a lot of things happen. So you might not want to cross her.”
Wolf, who is from Sioux City, added that she was a bit of a “mean girl” in high school -- albeit probably not as over the top as her character in “Heathers: The Musical.” But having that understanding of how certain people can manipulate others, Wolf said, has allowed her to connect with her character.
The musical, Wolf said, is very accurate to the original source material. Some scenes, which may have been slightly glanced over in the film, can now be glorified and explored thoroughly.
And those heavy themes we mentioned earlier? They’re brought out through songs like “Dead Girl Walking,” “I Am Damaged” and “My Dead Gay Son.” The film’s signature dark humor is interwoven into the songs as well, which Wolf said is a highlight of the show.
“The musical has a little bit more humor in it,” said Wolf. “It connects to more than just the high school-aged people. It also shows different aspects that the movie didn’t do. Things like the suicide themes and the inner subplots are brought out more.”
Even though certain parts of the play may be exaggerated, Wolf said “Heathers: The Musical” still feels very much like high school.
“It’s ruthless!” she said. “It’s like a jungle out there.”