April 11, 2022
Heathers the Musical, the new production from the UW-Madison Department of Theater and Drama, will be a hilarious, heartfelt, and murderous show based on the cult 1980s film. Directed by Jake Penner, Artistic Associate for American Players Theatre, performances will be held April 14-24 at the department’s Robert E. Mitchell Theater at Vilas Hall.
The show tells the dark and delightful story of Veronica, who desperately seeks to join the ruthless “The Heathers” clique. After falling for new bad boy JD, Veronica is kicked out of the clique and the pair decide to rid Westerberg High School of the cruelly popular elite forever.
In a preview of the show published in Madison Magazine, Penner says he’s had his eye on “Heathers” for a while now.
“They called me and said, ‘Do you want to do this?’ “recalls Penner. “I was like, do you want to do this?”
His question, the article explains, relates to the show’s “delicate, midnight black subject matter,” including “everything from teen suicide, the dating rate and murder to homophobia, ‘bullying and bulimia’. Although the musical’s upbeat songs “give the proceedings more sparkle” than in the 1989 film, the story is still as “dark and ominous as it ever was”.
But Penner says he sees “more than just a comedic version of high school here — there’s also a deeper political struggle at play.”
“More than almost any other show, ‘Heathers’ exemplifies the instinct to find safety in a group of humans,” he says. “In a way, it gets to the point of every drama: how can we live cooperatively in a group while remaining true to ourselves?”
Natalie Matthai, a UW-Madison senior majoring in marketing, acting, and theater, plays Heather Duke — one of three Heathers — on the show. She tells Madison Magazine that playing the role is a unique opportunity.
“She’s in the shadows,” Matthai says of her character. “That’s what’s really difficult – she gets dominated, then she tries to dominate. She’s like a puppy who’s been kicked a lot, but she really thinks she can do better.
Matthai says she appreciates that this production will feature a student cast, which is close to “high school horrors.” Although Penner agrees, he notes the show’s universality:
“I would challenge anyone to tell me that they don’t find real life reflected on stage in this show,” he says. “How do we remain respectful of our true selves? »
Tickets for “Heathers the Musical” are on sale now for all shows – visit Campus Arts Ticketing or call 608-265-2787 for more information.