A few months ago, I had the honor and privilege of being part of a very special production of Heathers: The Musical. It was the first musical I had done in over twenty years, and it was an amazing return to musical theater. The experience itself was enriching, but even more meaningful to me was the opportunity to meet and become friends with so many wonderful, talented people.
With minimal sets and limited space, the production staff of Shane Jensen (Director and Musical Director), Lithia Knopp (Stage Manager), Bambi Johnson (Choreographer), Tigga Smaller (Costumes & Assistant Choreographer), and Laura Munzert Woods (producer) managed to put together an intense, dynamic, and exciting show.
It was a pleasure working with an amazingly talented young cast. Heathers is a female-heavy show, and I have to say all the leading ladies knocked it out of the park. Darby Elizabeth McLaughlin played Veronica Sawyer with all the sweetness, cynicism, toughness, and angst the role called for. Her convincing acting and strong vocal performance was a big part of making Heathers an unmitigated success.
Although Darby is currently taking a hiatus from theater, you can still find her on stage several nights a week singing with Jumper, Philadelphia’s premier party band!
Sydney Phipps embodied the essence of “mythic bitch” Heather Chandler. She was electrifying as she led her clique of Heathers in ruling the school. She practically stole every scene she was in (alive or dead) with her honed acting ability and trained singing voice.
Sydney will be appearing in 9 to 5: The Musical from August 2nd to Sepember 2nd at the Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre. You can also hear her singing the role of Dawn in my musical, The Other Side of Never.
Rounding out the trio of Heathers were Lizzie Detar as Heather Duke and Emily Elborn as Heather McNamara. Duke is a character who is initially bullied (by Chandler), but once she fills the power void left by the deceased Chandler, she becomes the bully herself. Detar portrayed both sides of Duke marvelously. Meanwhile, Elborn played McNamara initially as a vapid follower who later shows a fragile side in one of the two tearjerkers of the show, Lifeboat. Her emotive vocals brought a pathos to the song that was palpable.
Mia Coulbourne played Martha Dunnstock, the unpopular girl who was Veronica’s best friend until Veronica abandoned her for the popular Heathers. Dunnstock is bullied and taunted, but remains stubbornly optimistic until her kindergarten crush dies and she reaches a moment of crisis. Coulbourne’s wonderful performance of Kindergarden Boyfriend moved many, myself included, to tears.
Lisa Standish portrayed Miss Fleming, an aging hippie turned teacher who, despite wanting to do right by her students, was a little too concerned with getting her own moment in the spotlight. Standish brought her strong vocal abilities into play during one of the stand-out numbers in the show, Shine.
And, of course, there were men in the cast. Matthew Wolffe and I played a couple of dads who were mortified when it was (falsely) rumored that our recently-deceased sons had been gay lovers. As it turns out, the two dads were harboring a scandalous secret that dated back to a certain fishing trip in 1983…
Playing our sons, the jocks Ram and Kurt, were the very talented Josh Schoff and Shane Wilson. Their hilarious song Blue (sadly now retired from the musical) brought down the house every night.
Rounding out the cast was the amazing ensemble: Breonna Lewis, Jordan Hoeflich (ankies forever!), Rylynn Woods, Hannah McDannald, Nelson Rodriguez, Katie Pendergast, Jordan Baumiller. Each and every one of them brought something special to the show. As talented as the principal cast was, the ensemble was the beating heart of Heathers, without which it would have been an empty, hollow production.
Performing in Heathers was an experience I’ll never forget, and I hope I get to work with these amazing, crazy, wonderful people again in the near future. Watch the video of the show, and you’ll see why.