Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Heathers: The Musical
Devon Frieder Productions
Review by Dean Yannias

Also see Frances' review of Holiday Cabaret


Lando Ruiz, Veronica Baca, Jessica Quindlen,
Kiersten Johnson, and Nicholas Handley

Photo by Glenn Pepe
Once a year, if we're lucky, Albuquerque is treated to a Devon Frieder production of a contemporary musical. Devon is from Santa Fe, and if she's not tied up in New York, she returns to her home state each January and gets together a bunch of talented young performers, almost none of whom is over 30, to put on a show. Devon produces, directs, choreographs, and stars. 2016 had no show, but in previous years I've seen The Wedding Singer, Lysistrata Jones, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels—each one hit it out of the park. This year, Heathers: The Musical, at the Musical Theatre Southwest Center for Theatre, continues the winning streak.

The 1988 movie Heathers is almost always called a "cult film." What exactly this term means is up for debate, but to me, it means that a relatively small segment of the population loves it but it would not appeal to the majority. They would be put off by the very dark comedy of a story of cruel high school cliques and teen "suicides" that are really murders. However, I can't think of too many theatergoers who would not enjoy the wit and vivacity of the musical version, especially in this production.

The movie, written by Daniel Waters, was turned into a musical by Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy (Off-Broadway in 2014, and quickly thereafter into colleges and regional theaters). As with most recent musicals, the lyrics are very clever, the music mostly forgettable. The only melody I can remember is a very good song called "Seventeen," about how kids move into adulthood so fast today that they can't even be teenagers anymore.

Despite the grim subject matter, the play is for the most part very funny, and you will walk out feeling up, not down. Much of the good feeling comes from the enjoyment of seeing "tomorrow's stars today," who appear to be having as much fun pulling together a show with about two weeks of rehearsal as we have watching it.

Devon somehow wrangled a cast of 17 over the holidays. Not only did Devon come in from New York, but Jessica Quindlen returned from Philadelphia and Rodrigo Zaragoza came back from Texas for this. Everybody does a wonderful job. I'm always hesitant to single out certain performers in an ensemble piece, but I'll do it anyway: Devon, Jessica, Rodrigo, Veronica Baca, Christy Burbank, Lando Ruiz, and the always entertaining Nicholas Handley all stand out, partly because they have the biggest roles, but mainly because they're just so talented.

The sets by Lando Ruiz are pretty spare, but that's not important. The costumes by Diane Baca, Devon, and the cast, are fine. Madi Frost as music director and Pema Menice as stage director do good work, unseen. And, of course, Devon Frieder puts it all together excellently.

I hope Devon has something up her sleeve for next year, but for now, catch this show. It's a short run.

Heathers: The Musical by Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy is being presented by Devon Frieder Productions in the Musical Theatre Southwest Center for Theatre (the "black box space"). 6320 Domingo Road NE in Albuquerque (just east of San Pedro, between Central and Copper). Through January 15, 2017. Friday and Saturday at 7:30, Saturday matinee at 3:00, Sunday at 4:00. Tickets are $18 regular, $15 students. Available at www.musicaltheatresw.com.


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