Last week, the off-Broadway show Heathers: The Musical released their new digital cast recording a week early! The new musical features a rock score from Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy and is available from the Yellow Sound Label.
Heathers, which is based on a 1988 cult-classic film of the same name, tells the story of Veronica Sawyer, a geeky high-school senior who is adopted into the most popular clique at her school, the Heathers. But, Veronica soon learns that popularity comes at a price when she is forced to leave her old friends and witness first-hand just how mean the Heathers are. When Veronica meets a new, mysterious classmate at her school, J.D., everything soon changes and she has to decide just how far she will go to take down the popular crowd. (Basically, for all you teenagers, Heathers is like a dark, 1980's version of Mean Girls, with a lot more murder.)
With music and lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy, the show's pop rock score is impressive, to say the least. The songs capture the 80's pop rock feel, but are given a modern edge. Unlike a lot of musicals set in the 80's, nothing ever feels cheesy, and there is enough contemporary sound to keep younger audiences interested and engaged. The songs are all catchy and fun and I haven't been able to stop listening to them since I downloaded the album.
The recording, and the show in general, is carried brilliantly by Barrett Wilbert Weed, who plays Veronica. Weed's voice is absolutely amazing and she handles the character's difficult vocal parts beautifully. She also manages to pull of Veronica's character arc, from a shy, desperate-to-be-popular geek, to a strong fighter who stands up for herself, with ease. Weed gets several chances to show off her powerful voice, most noticeably in "Dead Girl Walking" and "Seventeen", and Weed never loses the edge to her voice that makes her shine even in the softer moments of the score.
As a nice compliment to the more serious Veronica, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Elle McLemore, and Alice Lee play Heather Chandler, Heather McNamara, and Heather Duke hilariously. The three "Heathers" manage to each capture the mean, popular girl feel while maintaining their individual characters. The Heathers' main song together,"Candy Store", sets up their characters at the beginning of the show, while showing off each girls' epic talent. Wynn especially shines in this song and maintains the comedy of the song, flawlessly. McLemore shines by herself in her Act 2 solo"Lifeboat", with a quiet, but powerful, edge to her voice. If anything, Lee gets the smallest chance to shine of the three. She takes the lead on "Shine a Light (Reprise)", but she doesn't necessarily live up to the high bar set by her two counterparts.
To round out the leads of this show, Ryan McCartan plays a dark, sinister, and mysterious J.D. You may recognize McCartan from his recurring role as Diggie (Liv's love-interest) on the Disney Channel show Liv and Maddie, but his role in Heathers is quite different from his Disney role. McCartan's J.D. is a troubled senior who eventually becomes obsessed with Veronica and will go very far to get what he wants. McCartan's powerful voice takes care of the dark, edgy side of the character, but sometimes, the softer side of J.D. is lost. Regardless, McCartan shines on his numerous solos and duets with Weed.
Several smaller characters also have chances to shine on the recording. In one of the funniest moments of the show, Evan Todd and Jon Eidson (as the characters Kurt Kelly and Ram Sweeny) serenade Veronica in their duet "Blue". The song doesn't really give the pair a chance to show off their voices, but it brilliantly provide laughs and is one of my favorite songs in the show. To contrast these two, Katie Ladner (as Martha "Dumptruck" Dunnstock) provides one of the sweetest, softest moments of this rock score in "Kindergarten Boyfriend". The song not only highlights Ladner's impressive voice, but it also manages to make you smile.
If it's any indication of how good it is, Amazon SOLD OUT of the cast recording within 24 hours of it's release. The score, lyrics, and the cast never disappoint, and they keep me engaged and coming back for more. Heathers: The Musical certainly has a bright future beyond the off-Broadway stage and I, personally, cannot wait to see where the show goes.
Warning: Heathers: The Musical features some explicit language and adult situations/themes that might not be appropriate for younger audiences. The show, and the cast recording, are recommended for ages 16 and above.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
The cast recording of Heathers: The Musical is available for digital download on iTunes ($10) while the CD is available on Amazon ($14). Prices and availability may vary.