Fun in the dark

Heathers takes a twisted ride back to high school

In 1988, when Heathers hit the silver screen, it was not a huge hit with theatre goers. 

After finding its audience as a cult classic, Heathers has been given a second life as a musical, which promises a modern sound despite the throwback timeline. 

“Heathers is one of those cheesey bloated ’80s movies,” Robert Piche says. Piche plays Ram Sweeney in Winnipeg Studio Theatre’s production of Heathers. “They’ve really worked on the script and story for the stage production.”

He says it’s kind of a pop, rock anthem.

“The music is so fresh and so new. It’s not necessarily groundbreaking, but it’s not like anything we’ve seen before,” Piche says.

“It’s catchy while still being eerie and creepy,” Brittany Hunter, who plays head mean girl Heather Chandler, says. “People will leave the show with it stuck in their heads.”

Hunter says that Heathers may be able to bridge the gap between musical lovers and skeptics. 

“People on social media have been really surprised that this is a musical, and it’s bringing back some memories,” she says. “I think it’s going to bring more people to the theatre.”

The subject matter is topical, featuring themes of bullying, murder and suicide. 

“I love that it’s so real,” Hunter says. “It talks about things that are still happening in high school, how mean people can be to each other.”

While Hunter and Piche both portray the vicious popular kids in Heathers, they were fortunate enough to escape that drama in their own high school years.

“I was school president so I was kind of friends with everyone,” Piche says.

He says he wasn’t one of the popular kids.

“But my school had no football team so I didn’t have to worry about being a jock.”

Hunter had a similarly clique-free existence in high school. 

“Heathers is really about all the groups,” she says. “But I was one of the floaters. It’s interesting to play the head honcho now! Heather Chandler is in charge, feminine, sexy and definitely not shy.”

Piche is happy to provide some silliness for the audience with his portrayal of Ram Sweeney. 

“He’s fun,” Piche says. “He and his partner Kurt Kelly are comic relief within the dark narrative.”

The show seems perfectly suited to the Tom Hendry Warehouse Theatre, an intimate venue that will lend itself to more visceral subject matter.

“The audience feels like they are there with you. So we can take them on a ride… back to high school,” Hunter says.

Published in Volume 70, Number 25 of The Uniter (March 24, 2016)

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