5 Reasons Why You Need to See UMass Theatre Guild's 'Heathers: The Musical'

Since its founding as the first student-run theater organization in 1906, the UMass Theatre Guild has produced plays and musicals that give students the opportunity to enhance their performing arts skills. The Guild’s primary goal is to work as a team to tell stories to our community, and they have gone above and beyond in preparation for their upcoming performance, Heathers: The Musical.

The show, which will be performed by the Guild through March 7-9 at 7 p.m, is a musical theater adaptation of the 1988 classic film of the same name. It follows the teenage life of Veronica Sawyer, a former nerdy girl who aims to become popular through seeking favor from the Heathers, a clique of the most popular girls in school. While dealing with drama from the popular posse, Veronica befriends and becomes fascinated with a rebellious outsider named J.D., who eventually tricks her into helping him kill several of their classmates who have wronged them.

If the plot of the musical doesn't already give you chills, here are five more reasons why you should buy a ticket and see the Guild’s production of Heathers ASAP.

1. The cast and crew are incredibly talented.

The success of a show often boils down to how entertaining and believable its actors are on stage, and the cast of Heathers has gone to great lengths to embody their characters and express the themes of the show. The cast and crew of Heathers are dedicated to working to their full potential to bring the show to life.

Director Brian Belleville said he's loved working with people who are passionate about theater. "In the past, I've worked with those who enjoy theater, but do not consider it a passion," he said. "Everyone on this team has shown their enthusiasm for the craft and I couldn't be more pleased." 

2. The show’s plot will have you on the edge of your seat.

The gripping storyline is sure to capture your attention. If you haven’t seen the musical or the film that it’s based on, it's very “Mean Girls-esque,” according to the Guild’s chairperson, Chloe Trepanier. She further explained the show, saying, “It's centered around three mean girls who are all named Heather, and Veronica, who becomes part of their clique temporarily until she meets J.D. who convinces her to join him on a killing masquerade that involves their classmates.’’

Belleville agreed with the musical plot’s similarity to Mean Girls, and said that the dramatic twists in the Heathers story differentiate it from its 2004 counterpart. While he didn't specify the plot twists because he didn't want to spoil them, he simply said, "Each person has difficulty in high school and ... no one went through hardships alone. Those who have seen the film should expect something very similar to exactly the same jargon in the musical! It has been integrated into different aspects of the musical, but work in their own way to have a wonderful final product." The musical’s use of elements from the original film and its Mean Girls vibe will give audiences a sense of familiarity with the plot, yet its horror elements will equally keep them on edge, eager to watch what the characters do next.

3. The show touches on serious issues.

Many people can gather from the show’s storyline that Heathers tackles several serious issues, such as depression and suicide, and the UMass Theatre Guild has taken great care in handling these issues while working on the production.

Belleville said, “The cast has done a wonderful job working with the rehearsal team on communicating their thoughts about working with such sensitive themes. Helen Woods, Dramaturge, and Erin Hamilton, intimacy choreographer, have worked with the cast to help them understand the difficult themes well and made them feel comfortable portraying these elements on stage. In addition, the character work that I came up with challenged the cast to really delve deep into their characters, which in turn had them understand the difficult themes better.”

In addition to preparing the cast to appropriately portray these issues on the stage, the Guild is also making sure that audience members have access to resources in the event that they find aspects of the subject matter difficult to handle. Trepanier explained that the original Heathers film was released when such themes weren't quite as prevalently addressed. 

“In light of recent events, we have resources available in the lobby [of Bowker Auditorium] at any time during the show if you feel like you can’t handle [the issues portrayed]," Trepanier said, adding that she has worked to ensure that both the cast of Heathers and its audiences feel comfortable in the space and with being exposed to the subject matter of the musical. "It's important that these issues are not taken lightly and handled with respect for everyone involved," she said.

4. The show is relatable.

Despite the fact that it's about high schoolers in the '80s, certain aspects of Heathers is relatable to most young people.

Heathers can appeal to anyone who has gone through the high school journey, as everyone at some point has a difficult time," Belleville said. "Anyone who values the theme of residence will enjoy this show because that is the main theme I am trying to portray through various characters and scenes throughout the musical.”

According to Belleville, Heathers also embodies female empowerment. “Veronica, the leading lady, is in no way a role model; however, she shows the audience that even though a female might be put in a difficult situation, she has the power and capabilities to overcome these obstacles without the assistance of a male," he said. "I truly value the subtle theme this musical has and I believe that audiences will enjoy it.”

5. It’s a chance to support your fellow UMass students involved in the show.

Heathers is entirely composed of UMass and Five College students who work both on stage and off to bring the show to life, so let's support their hard work and dedication to the production. Belleville agreed, saying, “UMass students should come out and see Heathers as it has such dedicated people working on the process. The amount of time and energy that every single person has put into this process is priceless. Coming out to support those who have worked tirelessly means the world.”

Come and support the UMass Theatre Guild and see Heathers: The Musical at Bowker Auditorium on March 7th, 8th and 9th at 7 p.m.! Tickets for the show are $8 for UMass students, faculty and staff, and $12 for other adults. You can also go to the Facebook page for further information. Heathers is a must-see, and one that you’ll hate to miss, so get your tickets ASAP!

All images courtesy of the UMass Theatre Guild.