Dear Diary…Altona City Theatre Company is bringing Heathers the Musical to life for the first time as a community production in Victoria, and it’s “so very”. The dark and witty musical follows Veronica Sawyer, a brainy, beautiful teenage misfit who falls in with the most powerful and ruthless group of girls at Westerberg High: the Heathers. Falling in love with the dangerous new kid, Veronica is kicked out of the Heathers and chaos ensues.
For Lucinda Ventimigli, who plays Sawyer, the original ‘Heathers’ film was this secret, edgy thing that people always talked about if they were cool enough to have seen it.
“I’m a big Winona Ryder fan, but was always a little bit too scared to watch it. My curiosity finally got the better of me about a year and a half ago, and I was instantly obsessed, and kind of mad at myself that I hadn’t watched it as a teenager!” she said.
“The musical as well had me hooked from the second that spooky, vibey synth announces the Heathers’ entrance”.
Cody O’Prey, who plays J.D. in the musical, first listened to the cast recording about a year after it was released in the US.
“I rushed to watch the original cult classic movie after falling in love with the album” said O’Prey.
This is the first time Heathers will be presented by a community theatre group in Victoria, following the recent professional tour in 2015.
“There’s definitely the pressure to get it right, a lot of people love the show (including us!) but it’s very exciting to be the first amateur company performing the show” said Musical director Xavier McGettigan.
McGettigan, who usually plays the role of choreographer, is enjoying the change of scene as musical director, getting to tell the cast to sing out and crescendo instead of pointing their feet.
“A lot of people are anticipating the humour of the show, which we have in spades, but I’m looking forward to sharing the heart of the show”.
“I think everyone kind of has that in the back of their minds as motivation to make this show something really special” says Ventimigli on the show’s community premiere.
“We have all been able to develop our own role directly from the script and our own influences, rather than trying to find a way to make it as good as the last time, without the influence of pre-diagnosed direction and staging that we have either seen or been a part of in the past”’ said O’Prey.
The show deals with some serious themes, including suicide, homosexuality and homophobia, bullying, gun violence and growing up.
“These themes are explored, and yes, they often are presented in a sort of larger than life way, but the best thing that we can all do is play it all sincerely. This show is super dark but also super funny, and often both at the same time, but if you start winking at the audience then it just all becomes kind of farcical and that’s not what we’re aiming for” said Ventimigli.
“Our aim is to find the real emotion behind all of that, and I think when you play it honestly you’re respecting the darker elements of the show” she said.
“To begin dealing with all of these issues whether on stage or in life, you need to understand the story of the individual and how they interact with the world around them” says O’Prey.
“I do not believe that anybody wakes up and thinks to themselves, “I want to be the bad guy” but even the worst of people believe that what they are doing is the right thing to do”.
“If we can understand whatever it is that has brought people to believe that what they are doing is the right thing, we might be able to find a way to reason with them, and perhaps even open ourselves up to the possibility that we may not always make the ‘best’ choices ourselves” he said.
“I personally feel like Veronica is probably one of the more outwardly relatable characters, acting as the audience’s way into the story” says Ventimigli on her character.
“Veronica is relatable to a lot of people I think because she really wants to be a good person and spends a lot of time trying to reconcile that with navigating her newfound popularity, which she also desperately wants”.
“That’s something that people can understand: trying to figure out how to achieve your goals without losing sight of your values. I also can definitely relate to liking someone so much that you let them get away with a lot before you stand up to them, which is definitely what happens with JD. The thing about Veronica that I really love is that she finally does take a stand, which is very fun for me because for the last part of the show I get to act like a total badass” she said.
For O’Prey, taking on the role of JD has been the most exciting and personal journey he has ever taken.
“For a character that seems so far from my own personality on paper, I was surprised how much I could relate once I began to develop my understand of him” he said.
“JD is not a character that can be attacked by playing to the extreme actions that you see in the script, but instead by understanding the way he sees the world that he lives in”
“By understanding JD’s desires, dreams and importantly his past, his actions only seem more shocking and horrifying to an audience, rather than if he were simply to be playing as a ‘crazy-man’” said O’Prey.
Don’t be a pillowcase and miss out, Heathers the Musical opens on 13 January until 27 January at Altona City Theatre. Tickets at: http://tickets.altonacitytheatre.com.au/selecttickets.php?showid=153