“Heathers”, the 2014 musical based on the 1989 movie starring Winona Ryder, will be presented by Ann Arbor Civic Theatre from June 7th-10th at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.
The musical’s rock/pop score and lyrics, written by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, drive the story of Veronica Sawyer, who seeks popularity to avoid the drama of high school. Veronica falls in with the Heathers, three “it” girls, all named Heather, who rule the school. She discovers that popularity isn’t what she expected, and when she meets mysterious loner JD, Veronica finds herself in over her head.
Ron Baumanis, the director of AACT’s production of “Heathers”, spoke with Current.
Baumanis: I loved the movie, and I had a friend (Encore Musical Theatre owner Dan Cooney) in the New York production of the musical. I knew right away that it was a show I wanted to do in Ann Arbor. It’s a “revenge movie for smart kids”.
Current: How does the musical differ from the movie?
Baumanis: Our world has changed since the 80’s but basic high school relationships have not – there are insiders and outsiders; and while it is still present, we have a much better grip on bullying these days. The story is the same, though some characters have been changed Martha Dunstock is combined with several others to flesh out the “best friend since childhood” archetype.
Current: The movie deals with bullying, social politics, and mental health/suicide. Were these updated for the musical, and are they a reason “Heathers” is relevant today?
Baumanis: Those topics remain relevant in today’s world; what has changed is how we talk about them. We are partnering with the OK2SAY national program; they’ll have information in the lobby about anti-bullying programs. At its heart, the show is a sarcastic look at bullying, social politics, and mental health/suicide, and those topics are used as a means to an end–ultimately, the musical is about supporting each other, being friendly, and making the world “beautiful”.
Current: Tell us about the challenges/rewards of directing “Heathers”?
Baumanis: What is most rewarding is the remarkable cast–we had a tremendous number of auditioners for the show, more than anything at AACT in decades–and that speaks to how much younger people love this show. They get the sarcasm, the irony, the dark humor. The adult women’s parts are played by one woman, and the adult male parts are played by two men. It makes it fun for those on stage, and funny for the audience.
Current: The musical and movie both have ardent fans. What can they and newcomers alike expect from your production?
Baumanis: Nobody is going to leave the theater feeling that they weren’t entertained by one heck of a cast and orchestra. Kudos to musical director Daniel Bachelis and choreographer Patricia Mazzola whose work is intimately entwined with mine.
It’s a straight-forward production of the show: sets and props are kept to a minimum. Costumes evoke the images and accentuate the stereotypes. As for the musical itself, all the best quotes from the movie are there, but there are also new ones.
“Heathers” plays the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.
June 7th-10th | Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 2:00pm.
For tickets and more information, visit a2ct.org.