By Emyle Watkins
If you’ve ever narrated your own life, and by that I mean thought to yourself as if you were on an MTV show, then right off the bat you should feel yourself in the shoes of Veronica Sawyer, the lead of Little Theatre’s latest musical debut, Heathers: The Musical. Veronica, the moral-questioning, quirky, and brutally honest seventeen-year-old star of the story faces more than the normal high school dilemma. When faced with the struggles of young love, and the deaths of the far-too-young, Veronica must make the hard choice of eat or be eaten.
Set in front of off-yellow, ultra-small lockers, with a vividly depicted hyperbole of a high school student body, Heathers in many ways will remind you of your high school, despite being based on the 1988 cult classic of the same name. However, more is happening in Westerburg High School than one might expect.
While Veronica struggles to find her fit in the crowd, a group of social elite known as the Heathers pull her in after realizing Veronica’s talents in forging school documents. Veronica struggles with the decisions her new friends make as they begin to bully and demean her lifelong friend, Martha. After deciding to leave the tyrannical trio, Veronica is faced with social ridicule, and attempts to make amends with the head Heather: Heather Chandler.
Veronica, in the midst of her teenage struggles, meets and very quickly falls for the new boy, treacherous love in a trenchcoat, Jason “JD” Dean. JD’s willingness to fight for her, sing for her, and share his slushies with her, brought him to being at her side when her attempt to rekindle a destroyed “friendship” with the Heathers went far from planned.
This musical is anything but what you’d expect. While the plot begins normally enough, it later brings viewers new surprises and shocks along the way. Every moment, character, stereotype, and scene brings new exaggerations no one expects. By the end, you’ll be wondering how everything got to where it did.
Hosted by Canisius’ own Little Theatre, or LT as the cast calls it, Heathers is currently on show in Marie Maday Theater. The show opened Thursday, April 20 at 8p.m., and will also have 8p.m. showings Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22, along with a 2p.m. showing on Saturday. Admission is free, but viewer discretion is advised and reservations are recommended. The musical is student-directed by Sarah Sterzinger.
The characters of Heathers undoubtedly show a wide range of attitude as you see kindhearted Veronica and Martha face the ruthless Heathers. You also see jocks who fulfill and exceed stereotypes, classic dads, and oddball teachers. So how does one get into character for the vibrant cast this musical needs?
Patrick Sullivan, who plays Kurt, the dim-witted jock who excels at drinking and isn’t afraid to put himself out there, says that one of the initial difficulties came with the bullying scenes.
“At first it was a little awkward, ’cause we’re nice people making fun of other nice people, and obviously we don’t mean any of it,” Sullivan said, adding that, “By the end of it, it’s all in good fun.”
Other cast members, however, said that falling into place of their character wasn’t as much of a trek.
“I got to adopt my usual personality in most situations where I’m skeptical and annoyed,” Miles Keefe, who plays Kurt’s static, masculinity-oriented dad, said.
Other cast could pull from the experience of at least being in high school, but Keefe noted that he did not have experience in his role.
“I do not have experience being a father. Mostly I just made my voice lower, put a mustache on, and yelled more,” Keefe added.
Sydney Bucholtz, who plays Veronica in LT’s rendition, also added that with a cast so ecstatic and vibrant, there is a lot of work to be done on pulling yourself into character.
“It’s essential when you’re playing an extra character to just go beyond the limits of social norms and how you normally are,” Bucholtz said. “Just being in theater in general, it’s really important to like, leave everything at the door, whatever that may be.”
Bucholtz also said that she felt one of the most challenging parts of this musical was the characters.
“It’s important that people embrace their character and allow themselves to not think, and just absorb everything that’s happening around them,” Bucholtz said.
Bucholtz’s fellow lead, Mike Alessi, who plays JD and took on the roll as music director, also said that he felt the most challenging part was the music element of Heathers.
“I think, you know, vocally, it was a very tough for everybody,” Alessi said. “A lot of these songs have really tough harmonies and really weird rhythms.”
For another one of LT’s works, between the music, the characters, and the show as a whole, Heathers is a show worth seeing that every person involved really had to put their all into.
“This is a very vocal-heavy show, very ensemble-heavy, and stuff like that, so really everybody has to be on top of their game at all times,” Alessi said.