Mean girls burst into song in ‘Heathers the Musical’
“Heathers the Musical” could be the equivalent of “Mean Girls” times three — where each of the three snobbiest teens at Westerberg High School is named Heather.
Matt Mlynarski of Lower Burrell is directing The Theatre Factory’s production of the dark comedy based on the classic 1989 film, which he has enjoyed since discovering it with some friends when he was in high school.
He’s also been a fan of the “Heathers” musical ever since the original cast recording was released in 2014.
While his familiarity with the show is certainly a plus, it also presents a challenge for the director, who has been involved in past productions for Apple Hill Playhouse (“Moonlight and Magnolias” and “Steel Magnolias”), Butler Musical Theater Guild (“Assassins”) and The Theater Factory (“Pippin”).
Iconic cult following
“I think any time you take on a show that has an iconic cult following, the hardest part is how you stay true to the original while putting your own spin on it,” he says, “and for me it’s working with my extremely talented cast to find as many different sides to these characters as possible.”
One of those cast members is Raegan Hochman of Harrison City, who plays one of the “Heathers” in the Trafford theater’s version of the musical.
Also a fan of the show, Hochman says her character, Heather Chandler, is the epitome of “that classic mean, rich, high school girl.”
“She knows that everyone adores her, wants to be her, and yet hates her guts at the same time, so she takes that to her advantage and manipulates the whole school into doing what she wants,” she says.
Even though “Heathers” is a story set in the ’80s, Hochman says it has a modern-day musical tone.
Rock musical theater vibe
Mlynarski calls it “a very rock musical theater vibe with a lot of ’80s themes throughout” and says the show will feature a talented group of local musicians in the pit led by “our amazing” music director, Beth Minda.
“Personally my favorite song is ‘Candy Store’ because it features all three Heathers. It is such a powerhouse number and will be stuck in your head for days,” Hochman adds.
The dark part of the show surfaces when Emily Hamilla and Lawrence Karl, both of Pittsburgh, (in the roles of “misfit” Veronica Sawyer and “the dark and sexy stranger” Jason “J.D.” Dean respectively) team up to put the Heathers in their place, “6 feet under.”
Hamilla says her favorite song is “Our Love is God,” during which the shift in her relationship with Dean changes and her character experiences a turning point.
Lessons to learn
Karl believes theatergoers — from teens to seniors — can learn from “Heathers the Musical.”
“Most of us have been to high school, and if we haven’t, we’ve all been angsty teenagers before, so we can relate to the immature things they go through. We can also relate to some of the more mature topics you see in the show, because some of us still deal with them now,” he says.
The show can help people discover that they can overcome the toxic people and traits in their lives – and they can discover the importance of seeing the beauty in people and in life.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.