(The Heathers in Cardinal Music’s production Heathers, the Musical, from left Serena Barr, Sydney White and Charlotte Salisbury, performing during a dress rehearsal at the Green Room Theatre at E.J. Lajeunesse in Windsor, Ontario, on Thurs. Jan. 17, 2019. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
It may seem like a happy, jolly coming of age play, with plenty of exacting Nina Fasullo choreography and exceptional singing, directed by Regan White, but Heathers, the Musical, now playing at E.J. Lajeunesse School’s Green Room Theatre, has serious dark undertones put there intentionally by playwrights Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy.
So much so, Director Joseph Anthony Cardinal tells Eyes on Windsor that some may call it edgy, but with what is going on today, it is almost normal.
Normal certainly isn’t the way this musical is presented. Worked out on an almost blank page, with only a few props and a stage full of actors, it is the costumes that exquisitely define each character’s personality.
Bringing these wardrobe clues to life is the real magic of this Cardinal Music production. Initially the audience is introduced to three girls with the same name, Heather. Each shares the ambition to be the “it” girls – the play is set in 1989 – in their Sherwood, Ohio’s Westerberg High. They stand out with fancy, brightly coloured clothes and accessories, almost cartoon like. But not one of the Heathers is actually the protagonist.
That role is taken on by Regan White playing Veronica Sawyer a would be member of the Heather’s inner circle, if only to get more out of life. Turns out she does, but probably not the way she dreams.
Her love interest appears out of nowhere. Like Johnny Cash he is dressed in black. And, like Cash, he can sing. It is a musical after all. Black is also the colour of those with sinister personas. Nick Palazzolo plays the role with the required abandon and intensity to carve out the full measure of a confused teen with access to handguns and father who blows up buildings for a living. When asked his name, he vaguely offers JD. It is actually Jason Dean, the link to James Dean is clever.
Their night of lovemaking, the first for Sawyer, but not something JD reveals, ends with a choir singing behind them, a most appropriate visual effect.
As the play moves along, Heather Chandler, not so happy to have Veronica as a sidekick, dies. It is said to be suicide, then two jocks are murdered, it is also said to be suicide, and besides they were gay. Cardinal himself plays one of the victim’s fathers and is almost proud to call his son gay, a very moving part of the play.
Sawyer, laments about being deeply involved in the murders, although she does stop one of the other Heather’s from executing a suicide. Her college admission SAT scores, she frets, will probably have to be sent to San Quentin Prison.
When she decides to leave the sphere of the Heathers she is told she doesn’t get to be, “a nobody.” And there’s the point. The underlying theme of the O’Keefe-Murphy script is bullying, when taken to the extreme, is not something you can walk away from.
Target of much of the bullying is Plain Jane Martha Dunnstock, played with halting believability by Nina Fasullo herself.
Throughout, the tale is told with trendy, toe tapping songs and complex dance moves, all of it executed without a flaw despite requiring, at times, the full cast moving about the stage, a spectacle in itself.
The play opens tonight, January 18 at the Green Room Theatre, with repeat performances on January 19, 20, 25, 26, & 27. Evening curtain is 8pm, 2pm on Sunday.
Tickets are $25 for general seating and available at the Cardinal Music box office at 2569-B Jefferson Blvd. or by calling 519-944-5800.
Article and Photos by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.