‘Heathers’ at Hopewell
Millennial Theatre Company in Youngstown
Millennial Theatre Company returns to Youngstown’s Hopewell Theatre to stage “Heathers the Musical.”
MTC last used the performance space in 2018 for Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last Five Years,” but “Heathers” is a much bigger show than that two-character musical.
“I think it’s a good fit,” director Joe Asente said. “It’s such an intimate space, but large enough to build the set I hoped to build for ‘Heathers.’ I’m excited to bring some new faces to their theater.”
“Heathers the Musical,” written by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, is based on the 1989 film about a high school ruled by three alpha teen girls, all named Heather. Another classmate, Veronica Sawyer, is both repelled and a little seduced by their power, and she and J.D., the mysterious new kid in school, start plotting their downfall. However, J.D.’s methods are a bit more lethal than Veronica expected.
The musical never played Broadway, but it had a successful Off-Broadway run in 2014 and, like the film that spawned it, has built a loyal cult following.
“We had a huge turnout for auditions,” Asente said. “Maybe older audiences don’t know it, but it’s at the top of the mind for people under the age of 35. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone (that age) who doesn’t have ‘Candy Store’ in a Spotify playlist. It’s so rarely produced and has such a cult following that we had a fantastic turnout for auditions.”
The cast features Natalina Kazimir, Daniel Gordiejew, Lauren Jones, Brianna Rae Quinn, Kaleigh Ceci, Sam Gregory, Jacob Nash, Sarah Kinser, Courtney Martin, Ryan Stewart, Ben Doss, Lauren Engle, Michelle Jalbert, Kat Roman, George Maillis, Ty Hanes, Aleea Morrison and Kara Swansiger.
While this will be the Mahoning Valley debut for “Heathers,” it’s not the first time Asente has directed it. MTC made its debut with a 2016 production of the musical in Akron.
“I don’t really like to revisit a show unless there’s something I can add to it,” he said “The first outing had such a small budget and limited timeframe to complete it that it’s always been something I wanted to look at again and do better.
“We were in our infancy (the first time it was staged) and not sure how to reach an audience and publicize it. And there are many people who were interested in doing the show who didn’t know we existed at the time.”
Another lure is that the version of “Heathers” opening Friday isn’t the same one Asente directed in 2016. For the London production, the creators made several changes to the show, adding a few new songs and making some alterations to the script.
Asente said he misses the song “Blue,” but the changes definitely are for the better.
“The song ‘Blue,’ sung by the jocks, is a lighthearted moment and gave some levity,” he said. “In the new version, they’ve given Veronica more autonomy to stand up and defend herself. In the first version, it came off a little to rape-y, for lack of a better word.
“The classic Heatherisms are still there, but there’s a lot more depth and a lot more heart. It’s a more well-rounded adaptation with new details and songs added.”
If you go …
WHAT: Millennial Theatre Company — “Heathers the Musical”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through Jan. 23
WHERE: Hopewell Theatre, 702 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown
HOW MUCH: $20 with tickets available online at www.millennialtheatre.org/tickets. Audience members must show proof of vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of the performance, and masks are required in the theater.