By Michael Gioia
11 Jul 2014
|Photo by Chad Batka|
Laurence O'Keefe, a Tony Award nominee (alongside his wife and collaborator Nell Benjamin) for the pop-kissed score of Legally Blonde, is also a Drama Desk nominee for the 2001 cult musical Bat Boy. He's back with Heathers, another dark and twisted, yet pop-driven musical filled with catchy tunes, belt-heavy melodies and raunchy lyrics.
For Heathers, O'Keefe teams up with Emmy-winning Reefer Madness author Kevin Murphy on book, music and lyrics for the musical that is based on the 1988 film cult comedy. Andy Fickman ("Reefer Madness," "She's the Man") directs the production that opened March 31 and will close Aug. 4.
We begin on Sept. 1, 1989, when Barrett Wilbert Weed's character, Veronica Sawyer, begins her first day of senior year at Westerberg High School. "Beautiful" is a typical intro to an angst-ridden musical about teens who are bullied and bully others (but we totally love it!). The first track transports us to the worst parts of high school hallways (the ensemble is backing Weed with shouts of, "Freak! Slut! Cripple! Homo! Homo! Homo!" — ah, high school!), and Veronica gives us the scoop on all the kids at Westerberg. She's brainy, Ram Sweeney (Jon Eidson) is the typical jock, Martha Dunnstock (Katie Ladner) is the heavyset outcast, and the Heathers (Jessica Keenan Wynn as Heather Chandler, Alice Lee as Heather Duke and Elle McLemore as Heather McNamara) rule the school. Overall, the track is filled with snappy, sassy lyrics ("She's a mythic bitch," says Veronica about Heather Chandler), and melodies are reminiscent of opening numbers such as "Million Miles From Heaven" from Bare (Weed and Lee also starred in that Off-Broadway show) and "In" from Carrie. Also, listen to Keenan Wynn at 6:24 (the melody to "Heather I need your brush" reminds us of "This is Harvard, not a stripper bar" and other tidbits from O'Keefe's Legally Blonde).
It's the Heathers big number and the show's anthem! Very much like "The World According to Chris" from Carrie, "Candy Store" teaches the high school losers how to rise above and gain ultimate social status — without, of course, overruling the high school's Queen "Biotch," Heather Chandler (listen to 2:20 when Alice Lee, who plays Heather Duke, begins to take the spotlight, and Jessica Keenan Wynn stops her dead in her tracks. Also check out our recent interview with Lee, who is now on ABC's "Rising Star," and vote her through to the next round). Our favorite sassy lyric from this tune is "You just gotta prove you're not a pussy anymore… then step into my Candy Store!" The raunchy lyric and use of alliteration totally nails it!
"Fight for Me"
The love-story subplot comes to fruition in "Fight for Me," where Weed's character Veronica croons over "Mr. No-Name Kid," the super cute nickname she uses to refer to Jason Dean, aka J.D., who is the mysterious new kid on the block at Westerberg. We see Veronica's immediate attraction to J.D. The melody here is sweet, and the lyrics are endearing, and it's also Weed's first big solo. The song is totally relatable — haven't we all been there, asking our secret crush to fight for us with a chorus of teenagers singing "Holy shit" in the background?Continued...