By Jonathan Perreira, Staff Writer
Heathers is a classic film, a black comedy cast from high school drama, and it’s finally coming down to UMass Dartmouth. On Monday, September 11, 20 Cent Fiction, one of the two theater companies based out of the school, held auditions to cast the right actresses and actors for the excellent musical adaptation.
The story is a musical version of the 1988 film, centering around high schooler Veronica Sawyer as she becomes complicit in the murders of her nasty classmates. The titular Heathers are a trio of girls named Heather who use their popularity as a weapon against the other students for petty fun.
Veronica gets a crush on the new kid in school, J.D, and when the two of them accidentally kill the lead Heather, Veronica begins to struggle with the repercussions, along with J.D’s homicidal tendencies. Ultimately the play is about the types of violence we inflict on each other when we are young, as well as a rejection of superficial popularity.
The film deals heavily with dark subject matter that high schoolers face, including bullying, guns, date rape, suicide, homophobia, and school bombings. The most major change from film to stage is the addition of music, including classics like “Seventeen” and “Our Love is God.”
It also expands upon minor moments from the movie, giving minor characters like Martha “Dumptruck” Dunnstock and guidance counselor Pauline Flemming their own musical numbers. The movie felt like a natural fit for Broadway, with its large cast of flamboyant characters, iconic dialogue, and dramatic flair.
The original film was directed by Michael Lehmann and cast Winona Ryder and Christian Slater in the starring roles of Veronica and J.D, respectively. The first play version was created by Laurence O’Keefe, and starred Barrett Wilbert Reed.
UMass D’s production couldn’t have come at a better time, with a Heathers TV show in production slated for a release in 2018. Heathers is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, and this production can hopefully capture some of that excitement.
The original film gained cult fame with its frank handling of hard subjects, and also for being pretty cool. It could be compared to other cult classics like Rocky Horror Picture Show and A Clockwork Orange.
This film has been welcomed into the libraries of cinema nerds, similarly struggling high schoolers, and even queer film buffs. It never reached much commercial success, but it has certainly become a must-see high school movie.
However, adapting the play for a real school would be a difficult, possibly even unpopular, choice.
Its plot and drama hinges on the cruelty of school culture, it kills child characters and portrays underage sex and drinking, and (spoilers begin here) the climax of both the play and the movie end with a struggle to prevent a school bombing (spoilers end here.).
It is a piece of media about delicate subjects, and even though we all know we can handle it, the approval process for this film must’ve been a nightmare.
School bombings are no joke, and though it is fiction, it does require a delicate touch when portraying one on a stage. Especially a stage at a school, and especially with the recent history of school bombings and shooting in America.
20 Cent Fiction would doubtlessly have had to assure those that approved the show that they will handle it correctly. The theater company has triumphed, and this classic adaptation is making its way into our auditorium very soon. The show dates are yet to be determined.