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LA-born 'Heathers' graduates to high camp off-Broadway

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off-Broadway musical

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The lights on the Great White Way continue to diminish whenever a show comes up short – especially one based upon a cult movie and transferred from another stage or city.

So what’s your damage “Heathers,” coming from Los Angeles? Well, not really a lot.

“Heathers: The Musical” opened in New York on March 31 with lots of fanfare and anticipation. the New York shows de jour have been leaning towards retelling 1980s movies set to songs.

“Rock of Ages,” “Silence!” and “Showgirls” have gone on to great success in spoofing a generation that is known for big hair, power ballads and pastel spandex clothes.

But movie aside, as there’s a new sheriff in town. “Heathers” actually really isn’t such a spoof as the movie itself already did poke fun at high school suicide, murder, cliques and bullying. The musical, written by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe, simply continue to push the envelope and adds songs to the already riotous story from Daniel Waters original film.

Not everything about its transfer from Los Angeles to New York is successful.

In Los Angeles, Rex Smith played the role of the many father characters. That was funny – to have a 1980s icon poke fun at the decade that made him famous. This would have been a great tradition to continue and have an ever-changing 1980s actor to play that part – Shaun Cassidy, Scott Baio, Kirk Cameron and Corey Feldman would have made great dads guesting in this role. At the New World Stages production, the dad role is played by Anthony Crivello. There is nothing wrong with him in the part – but he’s actually way too talented to be in this role. He’s an amazing singer and Tony award winning actor, but it would be more a joke if the role was taken to the extreme by a Rex Smith.

Also, the show’s running time seems tad longer in New York than it did in Los Angeles. Perhaps if they pulled back a bit on visits from dead characters that would keep the show running more smoothly and quickly.

But there is a lot on the plus side.

Barrett Wilbert Weed channels movie lead Winona Ryder so much that I wonder if she will do musical remakes of “Edward Scissorhands” and “Reality Bites” next. She mixes in dead-pan delivery with a powerful, beautiful singing voice and her Veronica puts those mean girl “Heathers” in their place in one note. She works well against Ryan McCartan as JD, her love interest and partner in crime. McCartan is actually a dead ringer for movie JD Christian Slater that it almost seems like we go back to the 1980s in a time warp and meet Slater after having singing lessons.

The cast overall does nice work, singling out Alice Lee as one of the “Heathers” who has a great moment in the TV news montage scene and Katie Ladner who is sweetly endearing and a great solo number as Martha. Lighting Designer Jason Lyons also deserves mentioning, with his use of pastel colors in the background of all scenes, flashes us back to the 1980s.

Speaking of numbers, the “Heathers” songs stuck with me since LA as lively, parody. In a campy musical, we’d expect fun songs like “My Dead Gay Son,” but what’s really stuck with me since leaving the theatre are the ballads. “Our Love is God” and “Seventeen” are still in my head as well as flashes of “Dead Girl Walking.” These songs are quite memorable and gives the cast a chance to add depth and texture to something that is spoofing something so superficial.

All-in-all, “Heathers” is so very, as the characters would say. In this case, it’s very good, very fun, very laughable and very memorable.

To get tickets and more information, go to their fun website - www.heathersthemusical.com.

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