Nancy Sasso Janis
- OnStage Connecticut Critic
Thomaston, CT -So I saw ‘Heathers The Musical.’ Based on the cult film written by Daniel Waters, with book, music and lyrics by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe. A rock musical that is a comedy, but deals with issues of teen suicide, bullying, homophobia, and gun violence. So risque and often vulgar that Producer Jeff Dunn apologized to the audience at the Thomaston Opera House before the Landmark Student Theatre production even began.
I joked that every teenager in the tri-state area had come to Thomaston to support their theatrical friends, which was of course a bit of an exaggeration. Nonetheless, when they cheered after every number, it was earsplitting up to the highest seats in the balcony.
Even if the dark comedy was a bit hard to take, I cannot deny the talent of the teens that took on a wide variety of high school cliches, ranging from the three Heathers, “Bitter Geek,” “Hipster Dork,” and “Stoner Girl,” who was easy to find as played by Kristen VanDerlyn. Many of the most talented local teenagers came together to present a fantastic production and it was fun for me to try and pick them out.
Isabella Riccio was the perfect mix of geeky teen and hero as she played her “dream role” of Veronica. I have heard Ms. Riccio sing so well in several of her performances at the Warner; the graduate of Cheshire HS will head to Berklee College of Music to study jazz vocal performance in the fall. The amazing Lauren Stango was big and brassy as the ultimate mean girl Heather Chandler and commanded the stage whenever she appeared, even as a ghost. Ms. Stango is one of the talented daughters of “THE Chuck Stango.”
Ryan Glander returned to the summer program and was very strong in the tricky role of the damaged JD. Sydney Wyatt made her Landmark debut as Heather McNamara and St. Paul Catholic HS grad Dana Wilton was Heather Duke. Lindsey Sawyer was the mistreated Martha Dunnstock and Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts senior Brigette Horan played the aging hippie Ms. Fleming. Parental figures were played well by Allison VanDerlyn (Veronica’s mom) and WAMS graduate Chris Briney (Veronica’s dad) and with broad strokes by Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts senior Liam Dempsey (as JD’s father Big Bud Dean.)
Josh Viltrakis as Ram’s dad and Josh Rodis as Kurt’s dad gave everything they had to “My Dead Gay Son,” to great acclaim. The pair of guys that almost stole the entire show as the jocks were WAMS graduate Nolan Cummings as Ram and college sophomore Connor Dunn as Kurt Kelly
Ensemble members included Mr. Briney, Jess Cocomazzi, Grace Consonni, Mr. Dempsey, Chloe Ewait, Sarah Feero, Lilly McGrath, Shaila Murdock, Alyssa Renick, Mr. Rodis, Kevoy Somerville, Destini Stewart, Marley Thompson, both VanDerlyn sisters, Mr. Viltrakis and Jon Yatco. All of them nailed the choreography by Jennifer Checovetes, who was assisted by Rhiannon Carta, and they sounded pretty special when they sang together. Beckie Wallace made her debut with the company as musical director and Dan Checovetes did a great job of directing this talented cast of teens. I thought the slow-motion fight scenes were very well done.
The set by the director was simple but it worked and the costumes designed by Debbie Cashman along with hair and makeup, screamed “eighties.” The five-piece offstage orchestra directed by Ms. Wallace sounded great on all of the various numbers in the score. Gary Kingsbury designed the sound that worked well, although I personally had some difficulty understanding a lot of the dialogue from my seat up in the balcony.
As I left the theatre, I honestly was not sure how I felt about this show. I was not offended by the foul language and risque aspects of the musical so much as the insanity of the ways the high school characters behave. I enjoyed the music and I couldn’t help but watch the outstanding performances of these young performers. From the powerhouse two part opening number “Beautiful” to the precision of “Shine A Light,” I enjoyed the big numbers as much as the small ones. And the teens in the audience clearly enjoyed every single one of even the oddest moments.
‘Heathers The Musical’ closes on Saturday evening at 8pm at the Thomaston Opera House in Torrington.
Photo of the Heathers by Lisa Cherie