Please be aware that this show deals with topics of depression, suicide, eating disorders, and grief.
Photos from King’s Players social media.
Although frequently dubbed a cult-classic, there is nothing underground about Heathers. The show has been pushed into the limelight of the musical theatre world, and everyone should experience the show at least once in their lifetime. A lot of avid theatregoers have seen a version of Heathers, having bopped along to the soundtrack, or revelled in the pure oddity that is the 1989 film version. That being said, many fans come into the show with a specific vision, and it is the job of the director to fulfill expectations whilst delivering a fresh take for nit-picky audience members. Admittedly, I have such a soft spot for the musical as it was one of the soundtracks that sparked my excitement in musical theatre.
Co-directors (also co-choreographers of the show) Caleb Ajao and Natalie Chevalier brought forward the dark yet comical wonder of the musical. Heathers follows the high school experience of Veronica Sawyer (Erin Sevigny) as she is swept into the Heathers’ friend group. The Heathers are incredibly popular, but they are cruel to those around them. When new kid J.D. (Alex Pinter) enters the picture and captures Veronica’s attention, the two soon enter into a passionate yet dangerous relationship, adding fuel to an already toxic fire.
The set was simple but worked in the production’s favour. The stage is entirely black but has one raised platform. The platform, as a result, can act as a place of power, vulnerability, or sensuality. Moreover, the more neutral set allows for the costumes to pop. The production could benefit from the use of more colourful key props, such as the counter at J.D.’s Seven-Eleven.
The costumes are a perfect example of celebrating the popularity of the musical. Heather Chandler (Diegra Kambamba) wears red, Heather Duke (Natalie Diezyn) wears green, Heather McNamara (Grace Campbell) wears yellow, and Veronica wears blue. The distinct colours pop on stage and accentuate the girls’ power. The costumes have meticulous detail, including the Heathers’ hair pieces, the football players’ letterman jackets, and Martha Dunstock’s (Sarah Green) pink unicorn shirt and fanny pack.
Vocally, the cast offers a great sound altogether, but unfortunately, the microphones were not on their side. Frequently, mics stopped working in the middle of a song, didn’t work at all, or fell off the actors’ bodies. Moreover, it was sometimes difficult to hear actors regardless of whether or not they possessed a mic. The theatre space is big, so it is important to project your lines even with a mic.
With a strong dance core, the choreography of the show is fun and challenging. Every single member of the cast mastered the moves with precision and grace. Ajao and Chevalier certainly know how to bring the energy! The song “Fight for Me” has a great contrast of fast and slow-motion combat; add a swooning Sevigny, and you’ve got a hilarious performance.
As J.D, Pinter shows off phenomenal acting capabilities. He is no doubt a good singer, but J.D’s songs are originally written for a tenor, and Pinter seems to be a strong bass. When he sings tenor, although one would imagine it would be a challenge for an individual who is used to singing low, the songs are executed extremely well. Pinter slipped from tenor to bass tones in “Freeze Your Brain” and “Meant to be Yours,” but recovered during the second act for songs like “Our Love is God.” All in all, some of the casting choices were not meticulously thought out. That being said, Pinter’s talent effectively shines through, so it is clear why he would be chosen for a lead character.
As Heather Chandler, Kambamba is often the one to look to during every scene she enters. She has natural stage presence and an incredibly strong vocally ability. Her run during “Candy Store” is a perfect demonstration of her ability to “wow” the crowd.
“My Dead Gay Son” is one of the most exciting, action-packed songs in the show, boosting morale before the ultimate downfall of the charaters. Jack Sizeland brings a great energy to the scene and dominates the stage with his strong voice. Sizeland also makes an appearance as a cop and shows the same vocal power and energy.
Sarah Green, who plays Martha Dunnstock, is one of the biggest highlights of the show. Green has mastered the innocence and naivety of Martha, capturing the hearts of the audience. Martha is an incredibly challenging role as it requires a strong actress and vocal powerhouse. Green certainly succeeds in giving the audience the best of both worlds.
Heathers touches on many issues of mental health in young people, a topic that has arisen more frequently as the world realizes that mental health is just as important as physical health. The show is no doubt comedic and fun, but it is evident that King’s Players wants to use the power of theatre to raise awareness about mental health.
For more information about the show, please visit their Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1418371234979409/?event_time_id=1418371244979408
To view Western University’s mental health resources, please visit https://www.uwo.ca/health/mental_wellbeing/