Scrunchies, 7-Eleven and homicidal boyfriends were the talk of the town this past weekend as the Hinman Production Company (HPC) put on the fan-favorite musical “Heathers.”
“Heathers” revolves around high school senior Veronica Sawyer, a nerd who is transformed into a popular girl by Westerburg High School’s Machiavellian queen bees, the Heathers. From there she follows a path of destruction as her boyfriend J.D., the new kid at school, slowly kills off the popular bullies of Westerburg one by one. Through it all, she learns the value of enjoying the teenage experience and staying true to herself.
In choosing HPC’s first live musical in almost two years, co-director and HPC events coordinator Samantha Carroll, Student Association (SA) vice president for student success and a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, wanted to bring something with mass appeal that would attract new members.
“I really wanted our first show back from the [COVID-19] pandemic to be really fun, to have a lot of roles for a lot of people and bring a lot of new faces into the club,” Carroll said. “I know ‘Heathers’ is the fan-favorite, it’s a cult classic movie, just a really popular show in general. I think it has a great message, so I thought it was a really great way for us to come back from two semesters of virtual-only shows.”
Co-director Catherine VanLuven, a junior double-majoring in sociology and linguistics, proceeded to join the project based on the reputation of “Heathers” in the musical theatre community.
“I had never actually listened to the show when I agreed to [co-direct] it,” VanLuven said. “But it was a show that has a huge cult following. I’m very much a theatre person, and so I’ve heard a lot about the show, and it’s been a show I’ve always wanted to learn more about and listen to and see … I have a really fresh take on it, so I thought it would be really cool.”
The student-run aspect of the production was a particular highlight for Kristina Yim, a sophomore double-majoring in theatre and integrative neuroscience who played Heather McNamara.
“I love how it’s all student-run,” Yim said. “It’s really awesome to get people of all different ages — people my own age even — getting together and coming from all different backgrounds, all different majors [and] all different experience levels coming together to create the same project.”
The characters in “Heathers” are very much the embodiment of high school cliches: Westerburg High School is a melting pot of jocks, nerds and mean girls.
For Nicole Fauci, a junior majoring in linguistics who played Heather Duke, adapting to such a different character from her personality was a fun challenge.
“I’ve never really played a role like this before,” Fauci said. “I’ve always played like the really sweet little girl … It’s great having people you can work with so easily. I think the Heathers and Veronica, we work really well together and just having that dynamic and having really good actors by your side really helped me bring out the meanie inside me.”
In developing her character, Morgan Orzeck, a junior majoring in psychology who played Veronica Sawyer, noted one particular rehearsal during the process that she felt helped.
“We had one day during rehearsal where we all kind of got together, and we did a bunch of acting exercises,” Orzeck said. “[We] switched parts in some scenes, and we got to talk to our scene partners, and we talked about characters, nuances and their trajectory throughout the show. Especially with Veronica and J.D., who … has a lot of scenes within the show.”
Watching the production, the energy that came from the crowd was abundant. The audience ate up every song and joke thanks in no small part to the deliveries and performances of the company. This helped make many moments of the show particularly memorable, and a few cast members shared their favorites.
“I think my favorite moment in the show is ‘Fight for Me,’” Orzeck said. “I think it’s a really funny moment because Veronica is essentially singing about how she has a crush on this guy, and meanwhile behind her the guy that she’s singing about and the two jocks are literally beating each other up behind her … The contrast is just really funny.”
“My favorite moment in the show is ‘Never Shut Up Again,’” Fauci said. “Not just because I sing it. I think it is a really pivotal moment for Heather Duke. You know, her best friend is dead and now she has [Heather McNamara] and [Heather McNamara] is a little airy, and I think that is her breaking point … She just snaps like immediately, and it’s so great to go through the process of her emotions and her character.”
When the proverbial curtains came down, “Heathers” left audiences to reflect on the show’s strong and taboo themes. Fauci highlighted those that she wanted audiences to take away.
“This show is very deep,” Fauci said. “It’s very dark, and it’s very deep. Besides the singing and, you know, we got Ms. Fleming. But I think, just stay true to who you are, stay true to your friends because if you try to be somebody you’re not, things always are not going to end up correct or good.”