I have never attended a play with so much emotion and excitement that at times the clapping and whistles were deafening. If this type of breathtaking entertainment is what you’re after, look no further- Heathers: The Musical is here.
With voices that carry, and a heavy dose of comedic relief all sandwiched between beautiful choreography, Western Carolina University School of Stage and Screen’s Heathers: The Musical brought life to the University’s Auditorium.
Directed by Sarah Norris with choreography by Liz Borom and musical direction by Ike Webster, Heathers had the crowd devouring every second of showtime. Between an intense storyline of torment and forgiveness; death and life, moving choreography, and musical numbers, Western Carolina’s School of Stage and Screen cast, production team and crew, as well as the orchestra left jaws dropped and laughter erupting through the auditorium.
While the entirety of the cast held my attention and uplifted their roles, I was particularly struck by H.K. Wall playing Veronica Sawyer and Max Morter playing Jason “J.D” Dean. The couple gave the audience quite the stir. Whether it was a scandalous bedroom scene or fighting for their morals in the boiler room, Wall and Morter captivated the audience with their rendition of toxic love and teenage angst.
After the show, audience members were invited to hang around for a talk with the cast and production team/crew.
Audience Q: What was your favorite part of the process?
Pablo Fulbrook: Learning music is always my favorite part of the process. But actually, coming into the space for the first time was my favorite part of the process because when we were rehearsing in Breese and not on set. So, coming in here and seeing the show come to life was crazy. We haven’t done a show maskless in almost two years!
Audience Q: (Directed to production team) What was it like threading the needle between the
high energy elements of the script and the score and the dark thematic elements, how did you blend those?
Sarah Norris: The writers of the show have a really great note that they put to anybody that works on this production- they have a lot to say actually about working on the show. To me, I wanted to start with making sure everyone was playing the truth of it. It’s easy to lay in the jokes, but it’s really hard to find that darkness and blend those heavy issues that the play is addressing and then put the dancing and singing on top of it.
Liz Borom: There were a couple of dances that we talked about beforehand where we were very specific on trying to not make it look cheesy. A lot of the dance numbers were light and fun like earlier on in the show but as we got deeper into the show, we talked a lot about-particularly in Dead Gay Son- wanting it to be celebratory, but not cheesy.
Audience Q: What can you take from what you went through with shows last year and how did you apply that to a “normal” production year?
Daniela Velasquez: This is the first time I’ve been able to do a musical on stage in years, and the feeling is incredible. At first, when we took our masks off, I did not know how to act on stage. I didn’t know how to react with my facial expressions. I feel like I wasn’t listening as well. But when we got on this stage, it was like we moved molecules.
H.K. Wall: So, all of us have done some type of production with a mask. I think what came with that was having to really listen and hone in on your scene partner. So, when we came in here, we’re all in masks, and we took them off… half of us haven’t seen each other in person in months. It heightened everything to see more than just eyes and now see full faces. While the mask can sometimes hinder, it also helps to realize that you can still keep your focus.
A special thanks to the orchestra for their active involvement in the musical merriness of the show.