Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
In a modern version of Mickey and Judyand for goodness sake, please don't ask Mickey and Judy who?actor Brian Craft and producer Tyler Yurckonis were sitting in the downstairs lounge at The Starlite Room last month and Brian said "I want to put on Heathers: The Musical. The production opened exactly one month later, on June 22. The challenges in in putting on a show so quickly were many: the usual ones, like finding the right cast, staging and rehearsing the show, putting costuming, lighting, etc. together in a short period of time; and others that were unique, like the fact that The Starlite Room doesn't have an obvious space to stage something this large, with a cast of 12. The solution to the latter problem was to creatively utilize an area near the entrance, including an open stairway.
I have admired the work of Laurence O'Keefe in Bat Boy: The Musical (which he wrote with Brian Flemming and Keythe Farley) and, to a lesser extent, in Legally Blonde The Musical (written with Nell Benjamin). Based on the 1988 cult film, the characters in Heathers: The Musical behave repulsively toward each other but a clear moral center is retained. The story takes place at Westerburg High School and examines the issues of teen bullying, cliques and suicidewhile also incorporating murder. The presentation of the story is graphic, so it's not for every theater company or every audience.
Sabrina Bowen plays our heroine Veronica Sawyer, and Brian Craft is Jason Dean, who becomes her boyfriend. Ms. Bowen does a fine job delineating Veronica's growing confusion as chaos swirls around her, in a strong performance. Marta McKinnon plays the villainous, Heather Chandler. It took Nate Jacobs several years to get Ms. McKinnon onto the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe's stage to play Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, and here she is a perfect vixen. Miranda Wolf (she played opposite Brian Craft in Legally Blonde in December) and Brie Golden are sidekicks Heather McNamara and Heather Duke, respectively.
Alexander Zickafoose is perfectly cast as Ram Sweeney, football captain, and David Addis, if a little less perfectly cast, is his buddy Kurt Kelley. These two tear up the stage anytime they are on it, and are absolutely wonderful in this production. Jessica Babcock plays Veronica's friend Martha Dunnstock and rises to great heights in her second act song "Kindergarten Boyfriend." Asia Dekle, Parker Lawhorne, Rik Robertson, and Emily Hermey play all the rest of the characters. Rik Robinson pretty much owns the stage, with an assist from Parker Lawhorne, in "My Dead Gay Son."
Heathers was initially directed by Dennis Clark, then Sunny Smith took over when Mr. Clark had to depart for another gig up north. The production seems seamless, so no harm was done. Vanessa Russo got some excellent dancing from her cast as choreographer. Rick Bogner is credited as music director, although the cast sings to pre-recorded tracks, not always an easy thing to do. No one is credited for scenic design, which, because of the space, is almost non existent. Georgina Willmott's costume designs are very fine, the defining technical element in the show. Patrick Bedell lights the show effectively with almost nothing in the way of resources. Olivia Hermey is the sound engineer, Jackie Richards the stage manager, and Micah Noelle the production manager.
Heathers: The Musical is not going to be to everyone's taste. Honestly, it is at least as unsettling as Sweeney Todd. The raunch factor is quite high, something I normally find distasteful, but here I found the tone consistent throughout and appropriate to the story. Musical theater lovers in search of something they will probably not see anywhere else in the area in the near future are advised to rush over to The Starlite Room. A special three-course dinner option is available at $32 per person and looks inviting.
Heathers, plays through July 2, 2017, at The Starlite Room, 1001 Coconut Avenue, Sarasota, FL. For schedule and tickets, visit heathers.ticketleap.com.