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Review: Student-run "Heathers: The Musical" immerses audience

Photo courtesy of Sofiia Khalik.

Warning: This review contains spoilers for "Heathers: The Musical."

The air in Carrboro's Center Theater Company buzzed with a thick, static energy this weekend as audience members gathered in excitement for a sold-out run of Company Carolina and Pauper Players' production of "Heathers: The Musical."

Set designers Jackie Doyle and Erika Limezs made sure to use the venue's unique diagonal stage positioning to fully immerse the audience into the show. With club posters scattered around the walls of the theater, the audience walked into Westerburg High School, and would soon be introduced to all the characters that come with it. 

Before the show started, producers Lucy Smithwick and Anna Rui Dou introduced the two-and-a-half-hour show, including listing content warnings to be considerate of the audience.

Despite her purposefully-drabby costume crafted by Maddie Behnke and Kristen Coleman, Veronica Sawyer, played by Emma Mack, began the show “Beautiful(ly)”.

With a powerful vibrato, a belting voice to die for and strong acting skills, Mack was a joy to hear and watch from the moment she stepped on the stage.

Microphone troubles didn’t stop the cast from continuing the show, and soon it was time to be introduced to the Heathers, played by Kiersten Johnson (Heather Chandler), Kylie Robinson (Heather Duke), and Ashley Beaman (Heather McNamara).

From the moment the trio entered in their individually-colored plaid skirts and high heels, they ruled Westerburg High — and the audience's attention.

The second song in the musical, “Candy Store,” showcased the choreography of Liddy Wade, the choreographer and director, and Kamryn Burton, the assistant choreographer. With synchronized dance sections and members of the ensemble and band accompanying the Heathers, this was an electric number that called for Veronica to "prove [she's] not a loser anymore" and join their group.

Members of the cast were generally dressed in bright apparel, contrasted by a figure dressed in a black trench coat with jeans and a white T-shirt, who stood apart from the rest of the group, reading a novel. Jason “JD” Dean, played by Reid Weikel, is new to Westerburg High and soon shows his disgust for the culture the school fosters. 

In a fight between Ram Sweeney (Brock Sorrells) and Kurt Kelly (Anil Prasad), Veronica first lays eyes on JD and is infatuated with his mysterious, dangerous nature. “Fight for Me” showcases Mack’s vocal range and ability as an actress to display both power and tenderness.

The chemistry between Mack and Weikel was magnetic — from their first real introduction in “Freeze your Brain” to their love scene in “Dead Girl Walking” and everywhere in between. The harmonies between this duo were a pleasure to hear and truly scratched an itch in my brain. 

"Heathers: The Musical" gives the entire cast a chance to shine, particularly in ensemble-led numbers such as “Big Fun,” “My Dead Gay Son” and “Shine a Light”.

Grace Wilkinson and Kai Turik shone in their roles and captivated the audience with their bold and jaw-dropping embodiment of their characters — Wilkinson as Mrs. Fleming in "Shine a Light" and Turik as Ram's dad in "My Dead Gay Son."

Although the Heathers were led by fearless and fierce Heather Chandler, after JD and Veronica killed her, Heather Duke and Heather McNamara both had numbers that showcased their talents. Robinson's triumphant runs brought energy to “Never Shut Up Again,” and Beaman had a harrowing performance in “Lifeboat”. 

Bullied at the beginning of the musical, Martha Dunnstock, played by Marissa Mulea, has an emotional ballad in “Kindergarten Boyfriend” that brought the audience to complete stillness. 

Every character had the opportunity for a solo moment alongside the cast’s collective harmony, which made "Heathers: The Musical" a joy to watch and a strong ensemble performance — from the star-studded student cast to the crew and the band.

Editor's note: Lucy Smithwick is a former employee of The Daily Tar Heel.

@dthlifestyle |

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