Heathers, the Musical

Doctuh Mistuh's staging of the Eighties cult film is ridiculous in the best possible way

<i>Heathers, the Musical</i>

Man, high school sucks, right? Teachers on your case, parents cramping your style, pointless homework assignments. Maybe the best thing anyone got out of the whole experience is the creation of beautiful art on the topic. By beautiful art, I of course mean timeless classics à la Clueless and Mean Girls. But well before those, there was Heathers, the 1988 film that would become a cult sensation and, in 2014, an off-Broadway musical. The acclaimed Doctuh Mistuh Productions has turned another famed film into a stage romp, and it's more evident than ever that the company has carved out its niche in Austin theatre.

"What will we do next?" asks this show's program. An excellent question, as Doctuh Mistuh gravitates toward the weird and the absurd, having garnered numerous awards for past musical productions of Evil Dead, Reefer Madness, and Silence! – a comic rendering of this hilarious little movie called The Silence of the Lambs. So it came as a surprise to no one when DMP chose to stage Heathers, an edgy, widely beloved comedy that's about as black as it gets. What is slightly shocking, though, is director Michael McKelvey's decision to perform the show in repertory with the even more revered Rocky Horror Show. It's boldly offering up cult-classic gold here, and, once again, it's hit the mark.

Full disclosure: I'd never seen the film Heathers before walking into Salvage Vanguard Theater last week, and going into this blind was somewhat intimidating. But while the audience included its fair share of die-hard fans quoting along with the more famous lines, my lack of familiarity with the film in no way inhibited my enjoyment of the stage adaptation. To the contrary, I had such a blast at the musical that I could hardly wait to check out its better-known counterpart. And now that I've seen both, I daresay DMP's version is better. I realize that's a bold statement that the film's devotees might find tough to swallow, but McKelvey's staging benefits from a snappy pace and comic timing that the film just doesn't have. There's also the fact that singing about murdering cheerleaders is inherently funnier than listening to Winona Ryder's voiceovers about it, but this show's success ultimately rests on its talented performers and overall tight execution of the material.

The lead and supporting roles are well-cast and sensationally performed, Madison Piner's choreography is fun and crisp, and the entire ensemble is engaged and bursting with energy. Nailing down the show's standout performances is difficult, but Aline Mayagoitia gives a great performance as the in-over-her-head Veronica, and Taylor Bryant, Kassiani Menas, and Celeste Castillo all nail the mean-girl vibe as the three Heathers. Jeff Jordan and Ricky Gee are almost too convincing as obnoxious jocks Kurt and Ram. Krystal Newcomer also delivers a lovely solo as the oft-berated Martha "Dumptruck." Topping everything off, Glenda Barnes' costumes are a perfect homage to the movie, red scrunchies and all.

McKelvey and DMP have provided an irreverent night of entertainment that is ridiculous in the best possible way. I don't know if this group is going to prom or to hell, but either way I'm following.

Heathers, the Musical

Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd.
Through July 11
Running time: 2 hr., 10 min.

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Doctuh Mistuh Productions, Michael McKelvey, Madison Piner, Aline Mayagoitia, Taylor Bryant, Kassiani Menas, Celeste Castillo, Jeff Jordan, Ricky Gee, Krystal Newcomer

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