Photo courtesy of Ashleigh Newnes / The Center for the Arts
Story by Caryn Tramel / Contributing Writer
Based on the 1988 film, “Heathers: The Musical” at The Center for the Arts in Murfreesboro once again shows community theater going beyond fun musical numbers and dancing.
Directors Rachel Jones and Stephen Belk chose to focus on the themes of bullying and suicide seen throughout the production more than the humor. They partnered with Insight Counseling Centers to offer support to both the audience and the community. Throughout the play’s run, the Center for the Arts is displaying the #MurfreesboroMood wall in order to bring about awareness of mental health issues and to inform attendees of where they can receive services.
The musical takes iconic lines from the film, but don’t expect a night of nostalgia as this show is not true to the movie. Veronica’s parents, played by Leah Williams and Dakota Green, are more in tune to their daughter’s life. Also, the high school teacher, Ms. Fleming, also played by Williams, isn’t the hippie flower child she is in the movie.
Having said that, The Center’s production of “Heathers: The Musical” is still a great show. The audience laughed throughout the performance, further fueling the performances by the actors.
The small ensemble is probably one of the best from recent performances at the Center. Notable cast members from the ensemble include Sophia Young, Elijah Craig and Zoe Takishita. The scenes were more dynamic and real with their added facial expressions throughout the night.
Other great performances come from the leads of this production. Emma Puerta, as Heather Chandler, has a fully developed character throughout, truly making her performance as “queen bee” of Westerburg High believable. Some of the most riveting musical numbers come from Karisha Glover, as Heather McNamara, singing “Lifeboat” and Tori Peterson, as Martha, singing “Kindergarten Boyfriend.”
Kaylea Frezza, as Veronica, is great during the musical numbers but leaves something to be desired during the rest of the scenes. During many of the scenes, facial expressions and reactions are lost from Frezza because her back was to the audience. Seth Brown’s performance as J.D. improved throughout the night. His performance started out rocky with “Freeze Your Brain,” but by the end of act two, the audience could see J.D.’s breaking point going over the edge. The show featured continuously amazing performances came from Caleb Mitchell as Kurt and Andrew Sparks as Ram, with their best performances during “You’re Welcome.”
The Center’s production of “Heathers” showcases the high school edition of musical numbers, replacing “Blue” with “You’re Welcome.” This changes the meaning of one scene from Kurt and Ram having “blue balls” to saying Veronica should be flattered by the attention from Kurt and Ram.
Other great moments showcase how well this cast knows each other and the set. While exiting the stage from a sliding doorway in the set, Mitchell and Sparks had some difficulty closing the doors behind them but worked together efficiently to figure out the problem in seconds. At the end of the show, a prop got stuck on Frezza’s shirt, ultimately slowing down the scene, but Frezza and Brown kept the scene going without losing the characters’ goals or confusing the audience.
The design of the production focuses on the cast performances. The set design is minimal, with the school set staying for the performance and other props being set for the surrounding scenes. The set design left the audience with confusion at times as to where the characters in the show were. There is also a line in the show commenting on school colors, but the set doesn’t show Westerburg High colors, which are red and black.
The light design is more immersive, with light runners on the edge of the stage floor that change colors with the main stage lights depending on the scene and characters. The most prominent use is during scenes with Veronica and J.D.
The costume design is well done with the ensemble. The ensemble resembles real students of the ‘80s, with each costume complementing the character development of each cast member. A big disappointment from costumes comes at the end of the production. The iconic comeback from Veronica, in which she says she came from hell, was underwhelming as her classic blue blazer is the only part of her costume to look like it may have come from a small fire, not an explosion as the show implies.
The choreography in this production is one of the best aspects. The cast remained synchronized throughout the musical numbers, presenting themselves as one smooth, streamlined unit. One great example of this included action in the background of dialogue from the Heathers or Veronica.
Overall, this production by Jones and Belk is “big fun.”
“Heathers: The Musical” runs through Sept. 16, 2018. This production is rated R. For more information, call 615-904-ARTS or visit www.boroarts.org.
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