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Regional Reviews: Las Vegas

Heathers: The Musical
Onyx Theatre
Review by Mary LaFrance

Brenna Folger and Maverick Hiu
If Sweeney Todd and West Side Story had a high-spirited love child, it would be Heathers: The Musical. Based on Heathers, the 1989 dark film comedy (written by Daniel Waters) that became a bit of a cult classic, this stage adaptation with book, music, and lyrics by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O'Keefe is tuneful and wickedly fun.

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 girls—all three of them named Heather—even 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 all—they 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 productions—a 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 up—one 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

Veronica Sawyer: Brenna Folger
Jason J.D. Dean: Maverick Hiu
Heather Chandler: Kady Heard
Heather Duke: Amanda Kraft
Heather McNamara: Lynnae Meyers
Martha Dunnstock: Taylor Ann Powers
Kurt Kelley: Jamar Thompson
Ram Sweeney: Jonathan Anders
Hipster Dork: Matthew Antonizick
New Wave Girl: Kaylina Fleuridas
Preppy Stud: Gianni Becker
Young Republicanette: Sydney Peca Story
Beleaguered Geek: RJ Viray
Stoner Chick: Almog Aybar Agron
Principal Gowan, et al.: Joe Hynes
Coach Ripper, et al.: Timothy Cummings
Ms. Fleming, et al.: Kelly Edgar

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