The 1988 cult film “Heathers” that critics call dark, cynical and subversive has surprisingly morphed into a musical some reviewers say is charming.
Like the movie, “Heathers: The Musical” revolves around the lives of 1980s high school students obsessed with the in-crowd, the outcasts and cliques.
But unlike the movie, the young girls wearing knee socks and scrunchies in the musical are singing while they bully and murder. A troubled young man carries guns and talks about suicide while dancing across the stage.
It’s an odd combination, to be sure, but audiences have embraced it Off-Broadway, in the U.K. and in Australia.
“It’s a dark comedy with characters that you can really dive into,” explains Devan Wales, who plays male antagonist J.D. Dean in Theatre Sarnia’s upcoming production.
J.D. is new to Westerburg High School and falls for Veronica Sawyer, the only member of the popular “Heathers” clique whose first name isn’t Heather.
“This is the first time I’ve played a true villain,” said Wales. “It’s a lot of fun for me but I know the audience will be divided on whether they like me or not, and that’s okay.”
Wales grew up performing with Theatre Sarnia before leaving to study music theatre at St. Clair College. He spent a year in the U.K. before returning to Sarnia.
Since back, Wales has had numerous Theatre Sarnia roles, most recently as the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz.
“I would say playing J.D. is a stretch for me. He had a tough upbringing and has a flawed frame of mind,” said Wales. “I have to go to some very dark places to find the character.”
Danielle (Cooper) Catton is another of the 18 cast members and says the show may be dark but it works as a musical because of its entertainment value and humour.
“It also deals with issues that affect everyone, no matter who you are,” she said.
Catton is a mental health advocate and founded the Sarnia Speaks series, which has tackled many tough subjects, including suicide.
Her character, Martha, is arguably the kindest and most optimistic in “Heathers: The Musical” even though she is relentlessly bullied.
“Martha’s character resonates with me,” said Catton. “When I first heard they were doing this, I watched the movie and thought this is so dark and yet so funny.
“This story reflects so much of what people go through in high school.”
Catton sang in Theatre Sarnia musicals in her early teens but hasn’t performed for about a decade, apart from her participation in Sarnia Sings.
“I stopped singing in front of people because I didn’t feel good enough,” she said. “That was because of mental illness.”
“Heathers: The Musical” marks her return to the stage as an adult, an experience she says is both a lot of work and a lot of fun.
“I’m very excited to be playing Martha,” said Catton. “I think Sarnians are really going to like the show.”
Rounding out the main cast are Olivia Gogas, Erin Innes, Kyra Knight, Sam Regan, Ryan Metzler and Brent Wilkinson with Cassandra Smith, William Elliott and Caleb Brown. Ian Alexander directs.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Heathers: The Musical presented by Theatre Sarnia. Mature content. Parental guidance suggested.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. nightly Oct. 23 – 26
WHERE: Imperial Theatre
TICKETS: $25 adult; $22 seniors, $15 young adult, $12.50 youth. At the box office or online at www.imperialtheatre.net.