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As someone who has seen the 1980s film Heathers, I was excited to see what new things UNC School of the Arts would bring to their musical production of the cinematic classic. Sitting in my seat at the Gerald Freedman Theatre, I began to enter this eclectic world where young edginess meets '80s camp. The show's set and lighting live somewhere between a high school and a rock concert as bright purple and blue lights color a geometric set with the Westerburg High logo painted in the center of the floor.
As the house lights dimmed, the rock concert atmosphere was amplified with the excitement of the audience. We were fortunate enough to sit behind a very supportive crowd of UNCSA students who heartily supported their peers on stage, a testament of school spirit. Maddy Brown as Veronica Sawyer was greeted with ecstatic applause as she began to sing "Beautiful." Veronica is a high school student who is sick of being tormented by bullies. In particular, two jock boys make her the object of their disdain. Mattias de la Flor was lasciviously hilarious as Kurt, making the audience both laugh and cringe with his sneering taunts. In order to escape such harassment, Veronica chooses to befriend "the Heathers” by providing them with forged documents. The Heathers are a trio of popular girls who rule the school, and they are all named Heather. It seems to be working in Veronica's favor until the Heathers attempt to make her forge a note to trick her best friend into thinking one of the jocks is in love with her. When she refuses, Heather Chandler (Reagan Carraway) makes sure to let Veronica know that she is in her “Candy Store” now. Carraway’s Heather was the epitome of a high school “mean girl,” branded with a sultry voice, red scrunchie, and an off-the-rails belt.
The real danger of the story begins when we meet Jason Dean, or JD (Jacob Moskovitz). His cool demeanor makes Veronica swoon, and soon, he becomes her escape when Heather Chandler decides Veronica will no longer be popular. JD takes things a bit too far when he gives Heather Chandler rust cleaner as a hangover cure, effectively killing her. And thus, their killing spree continues until intermission.
Though murder is a grim subject for high schoolers, it finds a place in the camp of Heathers. The crew began to set up for Act II during intermission, setting the stage for a funeral. This song, “My Dead Gay Son,” was the standout number of the show, performed by Santiago Sepulveda and Owen Harrison. It was an absolute hit with the opening night audience, full of rainbow-colored lights, gospel-like choreography, and sparkly vests.
The story continues as Veronica decides to end the bloodshed, despite JD’s insistence that they are doing it for the greater good. A clueless teacher, Ms. Fleming (Natasha Dvorak), leads the students in a series of pep rallies about suicide, during which one of the Heathers confesses she has thought about killing herself. Heather McNamara’s (Devlin Stark) “Lifeboat” was stunningly solemn and gorgeously executed. However, another student, Veronica's best friend, Martha Dunstock, is also planning on killing herself. Venus Fischer as Martha brought the show to a powerful standstill with "Kindergarten Boyfriend." The rest of the show follows Veronica's attempts to restore order to the school's escalating and murderous social unrest.
This cast was musically bulletproof, with each actor showcasing their impressive talent without missing a beat. That being said, the complex technical elements of this production are also not to be missed. From the fantastic first entrance of the Heathers to onstage, split-second costume changes, prepare to be mesmerized as this '80s classic takes the stage. Heathers at UNCSA is amazingly entertaining and is sure to appeal to young minds and captivate those who saw the original Heathers in cinemas.
Heathers continues through Saturday, November 20. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.