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Cult to crowd pleaser

THE title characters in Heathers: The Musical are three 17-year-old girls with the forename Heather who, while attractive, use bullying tactics so they can rule the roost in and out of high school.
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The story is drawn from a 1988 film, Heathers, which initially was not a box-office success but has become a cult classic because people see themselves and others in the school final year characters. And Heathers: The Musical has been acclaimed for its rock-style songs by Laurence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde) and Kevin Murphy.

ROCK STYLE: From left, Zoe Walker (as Heather Chandler), Conagh Punch (J.D.) and Konstanze Koedam (Veronica Sawyer) in Heathers: The Musical.

Since its initial staging in New York in 2014, Heathers: The Musical has been an audience pleaser. The Sydney premiere production in 2015 was so popular that it was restaged in 2016 for seasons in Brisbane and Melbourne, plus a return booking in Sydney.

Newcastle’s WEA Academy of Creative Arts is now staging the first Australian regional production, with performances at the Civic Playhouse from September 7 to 9.

ALL IN THE NAME: The Heathers, standing from left, Sarah Graham, Shelby Lincoln and Zoe Walker, with Conagh Punch and Konstanze Koedam.

The cast is headed by Konstanze Koedam, as Veronica Sawyer, a brainy and beautiful school misfit, Conagh Punch as a confident student known by his initials, J.D., and the girls playing the determined trio: Zoe Walker, as Heather Chandler, a hot but cruel girl; Sarah Graham, as Heather McNamara, who combines beauty and meanness; and Shelby Lincoln, as Heather Duke, initially the least powerful, but whose nature changes in line with circumstances.

Konstanze Koedam sees Veronica as a sweet girl who relies too much on showing naivete and initially finds herself used by the Heathers, and Conagh Punch notes that J.D. is very complicated, increasingly becoming a protagonist and more sinister in his behaviour. The Heathers likewise have very different personalities. Zoe Walker envisages the Chandler girl as knowing how to get what she wants; Sarah Graham views Heather McNamara as having a bit more soul than the other two, despite being a mean girl; and Shelby Lincoln notes that Heather Duke moves from being second rate to becoming a fierce power wielder.

The other characters include two cocky young football players, a large girl whose size leads to her surname Dunnstock being changed to “Dumptruck” by other students, parents and teachers who make very different demands on the youngsters, and kids who are regarded as geeks, studs, dorks and chicks.

The large cast also features Jessica Wilkinson, Jamahla Lardner Barron, Christopher Shanko, Jack Twelvetree, Kane Saunders, Andrew Wu, and a notable ensemble of young performers.

Lia Bundy directs, with Matt Bundy as musical director and Lauren Handsaker as choreographer.

Heathers: The Musical has performances nightly from Thursday, September 7, to Saturday, September 9, at 7.30pm, plus a 2pm Saturday matinee. Tickets: $26.55. Bookings: 4929 1977.

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