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What's Your Damage?

The kids aren't alright in "Heathers": The Musical



he first time I saw the movie "Heathers," a few things happened almost instantly: I fell madly in love with Winona Ryder, I started trying to talk like Christian Slater (who in turn was talking like Jack Nicholson) and I bought a trench coat that made me creepier than I already was. I was being bullied fairly heavily, so I connected to Veronica Sawyer's desperate need to fit in, to J.D.'s desire to turn his pain into someone else's problem and to Martha Dumptruck's feeling that none of it was ever going to get any better.

Obviously, I was wrong. The cliché is right, in that it does always get better, that fitting in really only matters in high school and that pain can never really be shared. Still, "Heathers" maintains the same power over my emotional real estate as it did when I was growing up.

With the smashing success of 2010's "Heathers: The Musical" and the fact that there's a TV show based on the story coming out later this year, I would say I'm not the only one still mesmerized by the brutally hilarious satire. The film, released in 1989, caught between 80s fashion and 90s disaffected youth syndrome, is still the most incisive, brilliant and sobering high school comedy yet told. Its look at teen suicide, bullying, homophobia and gun violence is no less relevant today as it was 30 years ago.

Every new generation finds a bit of hard truth in the film, and now that 2nd Street Theater and Lonely Fish Productions are bringing the musical to Bend, it has the chance to connect with even more alienated and frustrated kids. Director Scott Schulz explains the continued popularity of the film: "Those themes had never had such a platform to be brought to the forefront of the viewer's mind. It took such a careful look into those themes and left you laughing in one scene and crying in the next."

"Heathers: The Musical" is the perfect extension of the film, since it takes the absurdist candy colored nightmare to its most logical conclusion: bursting out into song. If Christian Slater and Winona Ryder had done so in the movie, it wouldn't have felt out of place in the slightest.


he film is so iconic that it can be hard to imagine anyone else as these characters, but actress Miranda Rose (playing Heather McNamara) sees the challenge as something altogether more exciting. "While we want to embody the original feel of the show that everyone loves, there's less pressure to be like the movie and more excitement at the opportunity to show more layers to our characters," says Rose. "It is difficult going into any cult classic that's been adapted into a musical, because there are just some things that won't be the same. Fortunately with 'Heathers the Musical,' they kept many of the iconic lines/themes and they expand on characters you didn't get to know as well in the film."

Anyssa Bohanan (who plays queen bee Heather Chandler) thrives in exploring the lighter side of the characters. "Surprisingly, the challenge isn't really fitting into the mold as far as recreating a cult classic because, even though they're very similar in the plot and characters, the movie and the musical are fairly different," says Bohanan. "The movie is much darker than the musical, the music adds a level of brevity that you don't see in the movie. It's still quite dark but it's more relatable to the audience when presented the way we're doing it on stage."

"Heathers: The Musical" shouldn't just be seen because it's got some great songs and a wonderful story, but also because it's still a powerful window into the minds of disaffected youth.

If the show helps one kid feel like they're not alone in the world, then theater has achieved its purpose once again. Art makes the world better, but great art makes the world sing.

Heathers: The Musical

Fri., Sept. 1-Sat., Sept. 16.

7:30pm. Matinees at 3pm

2nd Street Theater

220 NE Lafayette Ave., Bend


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