Regional Reviews: Las Vegas
Heathers: The Musical
Desperate and bullied as she tries to fit in with the popular crowd at her new high school, Veronica Sawyer jumps at the chance to join the ruling clique of mean girlsall three of them named Heathereven if it means betraying her best friend since childhood, the decidedly un-cool Martha Dunnstock (cruelly nicknamed Dumptruck). When Martha begins to question her choice of friends, Veronica finds her white knight in brooding outsider Jason Dean, or J.D. But will her new allegiance prove even more poisonous?
A winning production at the Onyx Theatre makes the most of this surprisingly strong material. Under Troy Heard's confident direction, the talented cast of triple-threats proves that they can do it allthey are strong singers, agile dancers, and vibrant actors who find the heart of even the most obnoxious characters.
As Veronica, the unwitting catalyst for a cascade of unfortunate events, Brenna Folger strikes all the right notes with her convincing portrayal of a soul-searching adolescent looking for love in all the wrong places; her vocal chops and stage presence give the show its essential foundation. Equally strong are the three Heathers, each of them imposing in distinctly different ways: Kady Heard commands the stage as the high-kicking redhead Heather Chandler (think Kathy Griffin as a showgirl), Amanda Kraft embodies snark as the pouting and vicious Heather Duke, and Lynnae Meyers as Heather McNamara allows the frightened girl to peek out from behind the blond Valkyrie, especially in her solo, "Lifeboat."
As the trench-coated J.D., the youthful Maverick Hiu easily holds his own in the company of more seasoned performers; he and Folger perform a rousing duet in "Seventeen." Gifted vocalist Taylor Ann Powers disappears convincingly into the ostracized Martha but reveals the swan inside the ugly duckling in her powerful eleven o'clock number "Kindergarten Boyfriend." As the hormone-driven jocks Kurt and Ram, Jamar Thompson and Jonathan Anders make us long for their punishment but never completely lose our sympathy. Playing multiple roles, Joe Hynes, Timothy Cummings and Kelly Edgar acquit themselves well as the well-meaning but ineffectual grownups who, like the adults in West Side Story, are helpless to avert the youthful tragedies. A strong ensemble of young singer/dancers, each embodying a distinctive high school type, rounds out the cast.
Kady Heard's lively choreography makes good use of the agility of the young performers. The costume designs by Cary Byers conjure up the 1980s effectively and give the dancers the freedom to move. Todd+Bryan's simple but evocative set and lighting designs enable the action to move forward uninterrupted, and Don Parnall's sound design is especially effective at crucial moments.
Heathers also boasts a rarity in modern low-budget productionsa live orchestra. Under the capable music direction of conductor and keyboardist Halsey Harkins, the seven-person band may be tucked away in a side room, but their presence is apparent in the vibrant music and in their perfect coordination with the vocalists.
In Heathers: The Musical, the Onyx Theatre combines strong underlying material with high production values, earning three thumbs upone for each of the redoubtable Heathers.
Heathers: The Musical runs through April 30, 2016, (Thursday-Saturday at 8 pm; Sunday, April 17, at 5 pm) at the Onyx Theatre, 953 E. Sahara Ave., # 16B, Las Vegas. For tickets ($25 general admission) or further information, go to www.onyxtheatre.com.