Big hair, shoulder pads, and murder. The damaged 80’s are back in Fighting Chance Production’s presentation of Heathers: The Musical. But while the writing brings this black comedy to neon life, this production never quite goes far enough.
Heathers: The Musical follows average girl Veronica Sawyer, as she rises into the Queen B posse of the three Heathers: Chandler, Duke and MacNamara. When the trench coat clad outsider, JD, shows her an alternative way of getting what she wants, Veronica must decide which side of the moral compass she wants to live.
Based on the film by Daniel Waters, Heathers is meant to be an edgy black comedy. But while the lyrics and rocking beat brings a rough and bawdy energy to the room, the direction never fully embraces it. The result is a production that is safe and sanitized.
The cast is an uneven mix of standout stars. David Z. Cohen’s effortless phrasing as JD endears a true psychopath to our hearts, while Julia Ulrich’s Veronica gets lost in group numbers, despite being a strong actor with pipes to match. As the antagonist Heather Chandler, Alishia Suitor is a precision dancer with a classical voice that seems out of place in a rock ‘n roll show. She is offset by YooRa Kang as Heather MacNamara though, whose solo “Lifeboat” brings a much needed shot of vulnerability to the second act.
While moments of physical comedy standout, particularly in performances from Thomas King and Ben Bilodeau, high-paced action tracks like “Candy Store” and “Blue” lack the sexualized menace required to provide the stakes.
On the whole, Lyndsey Britten’s choreography is effective, but lacks the edge needed to match the music. Tim Driscoll’s set and Nicole Weismiller’s lighting are simple, yet brilliantly effective. The brightly lit technicolour panels allow the cast to manipulate and create different levels and sets.
Heathers: The Musical is a rock show that begs the question, how far is too far? This production does not go far enough.
Heathers: The Musical. Book, music, and lyrics by Laurence O’Keege and Kevin Murphy. Based on the film by Daniel Waters. Directed by Ryan Mooney. On stage at the Waterfront Theatre on Granville Island (1412 Cartwright St, Vancouver) playing in repertory with American Idiot until August 27. Visit http://fightingchanceproductions.ca for tickets and information.