Don’t let the recent rash of questionable musicals based on 80’s movies fool you, Heathers: The Musical is not looking to pick baby boomer’s pockets.
“The big difference between turning movies like Dirty Dancing and The Wedding Singer into musicals is that those are trying to capitalize on recognition,” says David C Jones, director of the upcoming equity co-op production that will play The York Theatre in January.
“Heathers was never really a popular film; in fact it pretty much bombed at the box office. It did find a resurgence on video, but it really only had a cult following, as opposed to a built-in fan base,” he continues.
While the film did manage to garner a small rabid following, that continued later as the musical went to its Off-Broadway run in 2014, Jones says that the musical’s writers were struck more by the story than any box office potential.
“The writers were touched by the story and the angst of these teenagers,” says Jones. “This is good material, not a cash grab.”
Following the story of the 1988 film on which it is based, Heathers: The Musical tells of Veronica Sawyer, a young high school student trying to find her identity. Initially cozying up to the cool kids in school – three girls who all happen to be named Heather – Veronica soon discoveries that she not only doesn’t fit in with them, she doesn’t particularly care for them either. Finding herself attracted to the rebellious outsider J.D., the two find themselves caught in a web of violence.
“It is pretty dark stuff, but then some of the most powerful musicals are dark,” says Jones citing the likes of Sunset Boulevard, Les Misérables and Titanic.
For Jones though, what sets Heathers apart from those other musicals is how its dark themes are often played for laughs. “The thing that makes this one different and edgy is that it is played as a comedy,” he says.
But don’t get the idea that because Heathers is funny it only plays on the surface, as Jones believes that, like any good musical, the genre dictates that the writers need to expand the universe in which these characters reside.
“The writers can go deeper,” he says. “It makes some of the characters less shallow and some of them more brazen. When you’re translating a piece that isn’t a musical originally you have to go deeper into the story, and the writers of this show do a brilliant job of that”.
It also helps that Jones isn’t afraid of Heathers’ dark themes.
“We have lightness where it is warranted, but we’re not being frivolous with it,” he says. “I don’t want to depress audiences, and it does have a very joyous ending, but you need to burn to that joyous ending. If you’re light all the way through you don’t deserve a happy ending.”
Heathers: The Musical plays The York Theatre (639 Commercial Dr, Vancouver) January 6-17. Visit https://thecultch.com for tickets and information.