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“Heathers: The Musical” Has Big Emotions, Big Laughs, and Great Performances


Remember those teen dramas that came out all too often back in the eighties? The ones that were painfully sincere and maybe even hard to watch, but found their way into your heart regardless? If your fondness for those films has grown over the years, yet you’d like to relive those moments in a satirical light, Firehouse Theatre’s and TheatreLAB’s production of Heathers: The Musical is a totally radical offering.

When Heathers was released in 1989, the film was an answer to the prayers of many looking for a satirical lens through which to view the genre. The cult film, starring Christian Slater and Winona Ryder, is the basis for Heathers: The Musical, a rock music-interpretation of the storyline from the eponymous film, now playing at Firehouse Theatre.

“Heathers: The Musical” is showing at Firehouse Theatre through August 12. (Photo by Tom Topinka)

Blending the dark comedy elements from the movie with gag-me-with-a-spoon humor, the result is a bombastic musical experience. Much like the original, the tongue-in-cheek look at suicide, sexual activity, eating disorders, and gun violence provides weight, without bringing down the show’s main story arc. Navigating the social groups of high school is a rich topic for drama the source material poked fun at expertly, and this musical adaptation tackles those topics with a similar proficiency. And while this show may warrant a sensitivity warning, the perspective offered is an exceptional way for adults to relate to and understand the many serious problems that persist in middle and high schools today.

This production makes the teen drama feel as real as possible, with a strong cast of young theatre actors cast perfectly for the stereotypes they are meant to parody. The main cast of the Heathers clique, the lead roles of JD and Veronica, and the comedic foils of Ram and Kurt will place you back in high school with their energetic, lively performances. Equal to the quality acting are the vocal performances of these actors. Many songs come to life solely from the strength of the vocal trio of the Heathers clique and the pitch-perfect belting from lead Veronica (expertly played by Carmen Wiley). It’s the crucial one-two punch that many musicals can be in danger of missing, but Heathers: The Musical lands hard.

The humor emphasized throughout the play would earn it an R-rating to say the least, but it is clear this production has more to it than one might gather from a first watch. With the serious topics involved, director Debra Clinton offers a multi-faceted show that leads to laughs as large as the emotions. Musical director Jason Marks (who is also the musical genius behind Virginia Rep’s original production of The Little Engine That Could) gets kudos for managing the music. This show is suitable for a fan of the cult classic, or someone looking to relive and laugh at their glory days.

Recently extended, Heathers: The Musical is a co-production of Firehouse and TheatreLAB showing at Firehouse Theatre on Broad Street through August 12. For showtimes and tickets, visit Firehouse Theatre.

Kevin Johnson is a writer and college student in Richmond. Along with stage reviews for Richmond Family Magazine, Kevin has stories published in Richmond Magazine and Forum Magazine. Kevin is a part-time DJ at WDCE 90.1 radio station, and enjoys music and theater.

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