Commentary: CMTS’s Heathers is a showstopper

Based on the 1989 film by the same name, starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, the Carleton Musical Theatre Society (CMTS)’s production of Heathers is Mean Girls meets murder meets musical. Directed by Victoria Rutkowski, and music directed by Galen Cuisson, the CMTS’s second ever production was an absolute treat.

Veronica Sawyer (Michelle Gendron) is a quiet, dorky student at Westerberg High in Sherwood, Ohio. She dreams of being friends with the popular clique, three girls who share one name: The Heathers. Veronica claws her way to the top of the Westerberg food chain, and finally becomes a Heather herself. When she falls in love with JD, the dark and mysterious new kid, the Heathers disapprove, and her world turns upside down.

Gendron stole the hearts of JD and the audience playing the leading lady. Gendron tackled the challenging role easily from beginning to end. She showed off her impressive vocals, belting with ease in “Beautiful” and “Dead Girl Walking.”

Peter Grant Mackechnie starred opposite Gendron as love interest and antagonist Jason Dean (JD for short). Mackechnie evolved effortlessly from wry bookworm to psychopathic killer, with acting skills that made audiences emphasize with him, despite the fact that he murders his classmates in cold blood for fun.

The Heathers are the original high school mean girls, and Carleton’s own Heathers did absolute justice to their characters. Heather Chandler (Kelsey Lee) led the clique with the perfect blend of venom and sarcasm, Heather Duke (Keegan Carr) impressed audiences in her CMTS debut, and Heather McNamara (Rachel G. Moore) wowed with her rendition of “Lifeboat,” a sweet, sad ballad in the middle of an intense show.

Performances by Robbie Clement as Ram Sweeney, and Connor McMahon as Kurt Kelly, stood out for their comic relief in a show that deals with some heavy themes. The pair showed off some impressive stage fighting in “Fight for Me,” choreographed by Storm Davis.

Jian Da Costa played Martha Dunstock in her CMTS debut, and her solo performance of “Kindergarten Boyfriend” was a crowd favourite. A first-year music student, Da Costa is one to watch for in future CMTS productions.

At times, sound issues took away from an otherwise stellar performance, with microphones cutting in and out during songs and dialogue. Lines from cast members without microphones were lost in the shuffle, and harmonies from the ensemble were not always clear. But the cast and band alike did their best to adapt to issues with the sound system.

The darkly comedic musical was complemented nicely by the lighting design. The set was otherwise simple, and the lighting design did all the heavy lifting to set the scene. Bright coloured lights in the background and onstage set the mood at the beginning, and darkened along with the themes of the show.

Heathers: The Musical was a high-powered, dynamic rendition of an 80s classic, complete with big hair and shoulder pads, and definitely worth the watch.

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