Hart House Theatre has kicked off its 2018-19 season and invited Torontonicity to check out their latest production: Heathers: The Musical. We were invited to opening night to enjoy a performance full of energy, laughter, shock, and roaring applause. Heathers: The Musical at Hart House Theatre, directed by Jennifer Walls, plays until October 6, 2018 so if you’re thinking about checking it out but are unsure, let me tell you why this show is worth seeing…
Heathers: The Musical is based on the 1988 movie by the same name. Originally directed by Michael Lehmann, the film revolves around Veronica, a high schooler who wishes she was one of the popular girls (yes, all named Heather) and her relationship with the school’s mysterious new kid, Jason “J.D.” Dean. This is a very dark comedy that includes themes of bullying, gossip, cliques, extreme violence, and suicide. Unfortunately, the subject matter is jarringly relevant to current times so Hart House Theatre is making a statement by kicking off their season with this bold musical.
If you aren’t familiar with the film, Heathers, which starred Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, and Shannen Doherty, you don’t have to worry at all. This cast is so incredibly strong on all fronts! The vocal performances alone will leave you completely astounded. All three Heathers, played by Mary Bowden, Paige Foskett, and Becka Jay, have impressive pipes; there were a couple of issues with the microphones during the performance, and these actors immediately compensated belting out serious notes.
Main character Veronica Sawyer, is played by Emma Sangalli and oh my, can she act! Sangalli is a beast on stage in every sense. Veronica has moments of side commentary, and Sangalli brings those small moments to life with her physicality, tone, and comedic timing. She has thrown herself fully into this difficult role. Case in point: there’s a sex scene that will leave you beyond impressed because there is no evidence of reluctance or awkwardness, just commitment to the humour and empowerment of the scene. The crowd was left cheering at the end of it!
An important element to theatre that is often overlooked by audiences is the intersection of choreography and stage management, designed respectively by Amanda Nuttall and Jennifer Walls. The cast is quite large for this production so there is the risk of overcrowding on stage, or visually clumsy compositions, but every actor was placed in the ideal spot for unobstructed sightlines. It never felt like certain characters were accidentally missed, or performers were trying to avoid one another. Everyone moved seamlessly across the stage, even during the most elaborate musical numbers. Fantastic job by both Nuttall and Juk.
Costume Designer Erin Frances Gerofsky also did an amazing job selecting the perfect outfits for this show! The 80s’ claim to fashion fame was vibrant colours and exaggerated silhouettes, but as a comedic musical, this note was taken a bit further. All the Heathers wear a similar school-uniform style outfit, but each with a signature colour: yellow, green, and red. Veronica always wears true and deep blue tones, while JD as the moody and mysterious guy is always in grey. Costumes were bold but were true to the character while balancing the visual characteristics of the era.
Big high five to Lighting and Projections Designer Melissa Joakim as well. There are some bold lighting scenes that take the focus off the main stage and on to the audience, and Joakim executes this shocking moment in such an unexpected way.
If you’re a fan of musicals, you must see this cast perform the I Love My Dead Gay Son number. Mark J. Umphrey and Hunter Agnew are great actors, but their performances during this song brought the house down! The scene builds to the most heart-warming yet hilarious moment in the entire show that had the audience burst into laughter and roaring applause. Even if you aren’t a fan of musicals, Hart House Theatre’s Heathers: The Musical is a must see: solid cast, important themes, and incredibly entertaining. Once again, U of T’s theatre kicks off their season with a bang!
Heathers: The Musical at Hart House Theatre runs until October 6, 2018. Tickets are Adults $28, Seniors $17 and Students $15. On Wednesdays, student admission is $12. Book online and pick up tickets at the Hart House Theatre Box Office before the show.