Review: Heathers the Musical at Meadville Community Theatre

When you hear the word “musical,” do the words murder, vengeance, and obscenity come to mind? If so, then we think you’ll enjoy Heathers the Musical, the black comedy currently playing at Meadville Community Theatre. 

Heathers, the 1989 cult classic film by Daniel Waters, was not well-received at the time, despite having Winona Ryder and Christian Slater as the leading duo. Audiences were used to the optimistic teen movies of John Hughes, like The Breakfast Club, and thus were unprepared for such a bleak high school story.

Nevertheless, Heathers was adapted to a stage musical in 2010 by Andy Fickman, who had previously directed the musical adaptation of Reefer Madness. Music and Lyrics were written by Lawrence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde, Bat Boy the Musical) and Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness, Bonnie and Clyde). Heathers showed at New World Stages (Off-Broadway) from March through August 2014—not what you’d call a successful run. It did receive a lot of praise, however, and the show also became a hit on London’s West End, winning the 2019 WhatsOnStage award for Best New Musical.

The story takes place at Westerburg High in Sherwood, OH, where three girls who share the same name run the school. And when Heather Duke, Heather McNamara, and queen bee Heather Chandler aren’t ruthlessly bullying the rest of the students, stereotypical jocks Kurt Kelly and Ram Sweeney step up to the plate. Best friends and outcasts Veronica Sawyer and Martha “Dump truck” Dunnstock are just two of their victims, but this friendship begins to fade when Veronica’s desire for popularity leads her straight to the Heathers. And, of course, no teen movie is complete without a romance: In comes the dark and mysterious love interest, JD, who teaches Veronica that it may kill to be popular, but it’s murder to be a somebody.

Shawna Daisley stars as Veronica Sawyer, and she delivers with impeccable comic ability, charming wit, and a lovely voice to top it off. 

Duncan Prather continues to grow as a performer, killing it in every sense of the word in his first leading role as JD. His voice is getting stronger, hitting some surprisingly high notes, and the chemistry between him and Shawna is undeniable. Prather’s JD is unabashedly nihilistic and manipulative, just as he is meant to be. 

Photo Credit: Maribeth McCarthy

Commanding the stage as the “Heathers” are Keyera Zerembinski as Heather Chandler, Isabella James as Heather McNamara, and Lauren Hale as Heather Duke. While working together as a cohesive unit, each of them demands attention in their own unique way. 

Photo Credit: Maribeth McCarthy

Providing some of the biggest laughs of the night are Robbie Brown as Kurt Kelly and Chole Loose as Ram Sweeney, the meatheads of Westerburg High. Their comic timing is spot-on. One of the funniest moments of the show is the slow-motion fight scene between these two and Prather.

Our standout performer of the show is Ellen McCarthy as naive, unicorn-loving Martha Dunnstock. She does an excellent job of keeping her character grounded, and you really sympathize with her. She also has an absolutely stunning voice. 

An honorable mention is Glenn Tuttle as Ram’s Dad. Glenn has a beautiful voice that was sadly drowned out by the ensemble during his number, “My Dead Gay Son.” One of my complaints about the show in general is the sound. The mics don’t help the soloists much, as the ensemble tends to overpower them in many of the numbers.

The end of the show seemed a bit chaotic, which may have been an issue between the band and the cast. It was opening night, so that could have been resolved by now.

Overall, this show is “Big Fun” and highly recommended by Spotlight 814. The final weekend has been postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak. No official word on makeup dates. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates! Tickets can be purchased online at https:/

Trigger Warning: Heathers touches on sensitive themes such as bullying, suicide, sexual assault, and murder.

-Ryan Dawley

Spotlight 814

Listen to our episode about Heathers and the uprise of the Horror Musical genre, including the upcoming off-Broadway run of Teeth the Musical!

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