- OnStage Florida Critic
Fort Lauderdale, FL - On Thursday, June 9th, I had the pleasure of watching the Slow Burn Theatre Company production of Heathers the Musical. Prior to this I had seen Spring Awakening a couple months back, which was brilliantly done by the same company, so, of course, I had very high expectations while waiting for the show to begin. Even with a high bar, the cast and crew of this production managed to exceed what I expected and took me on a journey through the 1980’s.
For those who aren’t familiar with Heathers the Musical, it is adapted off the movie Heathers released in 1988, and we watch the protagonist, Veronica Sawyer balance her high school reputation and ethically lost boyfriend who deems murder to be appropriate. The dark but humorous nature of this plot made this a perfect fit to be moved to the stage. I hadn’t seen this musical live yet, but I have listened to the cast recording an embarrassing amount of times. So, the moment I heard that a local production will be playing by me, I jumped at the opportunity to attend, and all who are able should as well.
While sitting in the audience, you are faced with a colorful set of lockers that immediately intrigue you, and the excitement for the show to begin kicks in. However, it only goes uphill from the moment the first word is said. The moment Abby Perkins (Veronica Sawyer) sings her first note after her opening monologue, the audience is immediately in awe. Rarely do people encounter a belt that is so pure and seemingly effortless that it sounds as smooth as silk. It was never overpowering, but never too weak. The control and range exhibited in her vocal performance had the audience members behind me squealing every time she would hit a beautiful high note in her belt. Not only did her voice leave the audience yearning to hear more of it, but her portrayal of the character allowed her to sneak her way into the heart of every person watching. She was adorably dorky, and it made it impossible for the audience not to laugh at every punch line thrown or facial expression made. On top of that, her soft moments were genuinely beautiful, for she allowed you into her heart, which is one of the greatest gifts an actor can give an audience. You noticed her heart fluttering during “Fight for Me” with the excitement of a crush and hope that feelings will be returned. Then, in addition to both those things, she was powerful. Perkins never missed a beat to shine during Veronica’s moments of intensity. This can be proven alone by the amounts of shouts and hollers during “Dead Girl Walking,” for every eye in the room was drawn to her captivating stage presence.
Even with Perkins’ stellar performance, no production of Heathers is complete without incredible performances from the rest of the cast as well. Bruno Faria (J.D.) played Veronica’s love interest with depth and raw emotion. The chemistry between the two was undeniable, and watching Faria’s character unravel as the show progressed was truly heartbreaking. Faria made J.D. a character the audience liked, which is saying something since he is a psychotic killer. To me, his stand out moment was during “Meant to Be Yours” when he breaks down because he feels he cannot be without Veronica. The honesty in every note he sang really did come across to the audience, and his vocal performance was beautiful throughout the entire show. The Heathers of the show, for lack of a better word, slayed. The moment the three of them strutted on, the audience roared with excitement. Leah Sessa (Heather Chandler) was fierce. Not only were her vocals incredible (with a flawless vibrato, may I add), but she demanded the attention of the audience every time she graced the stage. She made the “mythic b” lovable. Sunny Gay (Heather McNamara) was adorable. She never failed to make the audience smile with her innocent and lost nature. She delivered the part with humor and charm. Cristina Flores (Heather Duke) blew the audience away with her vocals. When she belted out incredible notes during “Blue” (reprise) the audience was cheering her on. And, of course, Justen Fox-Hall (Ram Sweeney) and Domenic Servidio (Kurt Kelley) did not leave a dry eye in the house, not due to sadness, but from laughter. That dynamic duo always had the audience shrieking with laughter at every inappropriate remark and nuanced joke. On top of all that, the rest of the cast can be summarized by one word: powerful. All the vocals, character choices, and detailed relationships/reactions brought color to the show, and really enhanced the production to be one of remarkable strength.
However, even a great cast would be lost without an amazing crew and director. The lights, sound, and mic mixing was all spot on. Cues were timely, the the show as a whole ran very smoothly. Additionally, some moments that were directed truly gave the show an extra layer that I have never seen before. The buttons after just about every number were breathtaking, for the image and lighting change left the audience in a state of awe. Particular moments of the show were also very nicely done. For one, the fight scene was excellently performed, leaving the audience gasping for air because they had been laughing so hard. Also, the finale had one of the most beautiful moments of the show. While the cast was reunited and singing of how beautiful life can be, seeing J.D. watching over them with a fulfilled and accepting expression sealed the show for me. That was the ending that gave me closure, and when exiting the show, I was disappointed the show was over, but I felt content, and that is a remarkable way to leave a theatre.
If you are in the Fort Lauderdale area, or close enough to drive, I would highly recommend making an effort to see this show. It will not only making you laugh and possibly cry, but it will remind you that “if you were happy every day of your life you wouldn't be human, you'd be a game-show host.” Also you may even pick up some “very” lingo. So motor your way down to the Broward Center Amaturo Theatre because this is a show you do not want to miss.