Andrew Mertz & Jess Harris Stiller in Heathers: The Musical.
Photo courtesy of The Alley Theater.
Heathers: The Musical
By Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe
Directed by Valerie Canon
Review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2016 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
Grab your croquet clubs and your scrunchies — Heathers is in town. Based on the 1989 cult film, this show pits the freaks against the popular kids. For The Alley Theater, a company always in pursuit of pop culture gems, this production is so very.
For those of us who cringe any time we witness Winona Ryder try to act, have no fear — Jess Harris Stiller is here. Veronica is a relatable, teenage outcast looking for justice against cliques and bullies. Carrying the show on her shoulders, Stiller’s Veronica is a sincere and empathetic narrator. Her voice soars with adolescent longing in the opening number, “Beautiful,” and she knows how to belt out “Dead Girl Walking” and “Seventeen.”
And who is Veronica without her trench-coat-clad partner in crime, J.D., played by Andrew Mertz? Veronica’s moral backbone is no match for the teenage sociopath. Mertz does well to tap into the motivations of the character, resulting in an emotional portrayal that reveals deeper themes of loneliness and ostracism that pack some heat in the Act 1 closing number, “Our Love Is God.” Additional kudos go to Mertz for nailing the line “Greetings and salutations.”
Now on to the Heathers, who are very talented ladies. Intimidating terrors, this trio is a three-headed monster that you will be glad didn’t go to your high school. Shelby Gray plays queen bee Heather Chandler with great holier-than-thou dominance. Gray’s strongest moments arrive later in the play when she haunts Veronica, proving that Heather C is powerful in this life and the next. Leila Toba provides a vicious portrayal of Heather Duke, the second in command. Toba creates some great moments as she attempts (and fails) to steal attention away from Heather C in the number “Candy Store.” Emily Vergason’s Heather McNamara is a mousy punching bag for the other two Heathers; Vergason completely drops this facade with an intense and beautifully honest rendition of “Lifeboat.”
The supporting cast is strong in this show as well. Jill Recchio as Martha “Dumptruck” delivers a sweet performance of “Kindergarten Boyfriend.” Phillip Rivera as Ram and Andrew Hoehler as Kurt are absolutely perfect as the oafish jocks driven by libido, never failing to miss a moment for crude physical humor and sheer dimwittedness. The ensemble is composed of an eclectic assortment of 1980s high school stereotypes such as goths, preps, new waves, and, amusingly enough, Republicans. This cast was having fun, and it showed. Each of the ensemble members brings a heaping spoonful of camp, in the best way possible.
Heathers: The Musical
May 12-June 4, 2016
The Alley Theater
633 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Kate Barry earned her bachelors in English with a theater minor from Bellarmine University in 2008. She has worked with many different companies around town including Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, and Finnigan Productions, and you have probably purchased tickets from her at that little performing arts center on Main Street as well. In 2012, her short play PlayList won Festival Favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. She has also written for Leo Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com. Thanks for reading!