Monday, May 19, 2014

New York, Day Five - "Heathers" and "Just Jim Dale"


In the game of high school popularity, you either win...or you die.  It may not be quite so "Game of Thrones"-y at most high schools, but it certainly is at Westerburg High, the setting of "Heathers," a new musical playing now at New World Stages based on the 1989 movie of the same name.  Those at the top of the social food chain (as ever, the jocks and the cheerleaders) breeze through life - until graduation, at least - while the rest of the student body cower at their approach and languish in obscurity.  

If you didn't see "Heathers" the movie, here's the set up.  Veronica, a pretty but unpolished girl, is taken under the wing of the Heathers, a trio of preppy predators (all named Heather) who dictate the social ladder at Westerburg High.  Where you sit in relation to the Heathers is as important to your standing as the lineup of functionaries along the Kremlin wall on May Day was to Soviet leaders.

After the Heathers' makeover, Veronica is suddenly getting the attention of popular boys and invited to the cool kids' parties.  That is, until she stands up for her bestie from kindergarten, the chunky girl everyone calls "Martha Dumptruck," and is unceremoniously dumped by the Heathers.

Enter JD, the new kid with the sharp tongue (and martial arts skills) who doesn't care what everyone else thinks.  JD's idea of revenge, however, is so very "Game of Thrones," and with Veronica's (at first unwitting) help, he proceeds to try and reduce the asshole/bitch/bully count at Westerburg.

Though this isn't a stellar show, it's a hell of a lot of fun.  (It's also very R-rated, so don't bring the kids.)  The music and lyrics (by Kevin Murphy and Lawrence O'Keefe) are often clever, and the show doesn't pull any punches in its depictions of high school cruelties.  At one point, the two main jocks claim Veronica had a three-way with them - specifically claiming (in song) that they "had a sword fight in her mouth."

The young(ish) performers are mostly excellent, with strong (if unexceptional) voices, though Barrett Wilbert Weed had occasional pitch problems in the upper register.

The songs - while entertaining - are mostly forgettable, though "My Dead Gay Son" and "The Me Inside of Me" were a cut above the others.  But the best song, "Seventeen" is a lovely ballad that could stand on its own outside this show as an anthem to teen alienation.

Bottom line - if you're a fan of black comedy (but with a good heart and hopeful ending) and you can get it on discount, it's worth a shot.

"Just Jim Dale"

Though he's been a star of music halls, pop music, the East End and Broadway, Jim Dale is probably best-known these days for being the voice of all seven "Harry Potter" audio books.

In this one-man show, he recounts his life through song, dance and comedy - much of it from his early days as a fan - and then star - of English music hall shows.

Dale is a true performer, and a gifted one, but this show isn't for everyone.  If you're looking for anything edgy, this is the wrong place to be.  But to pass a pleasant evening hearing pleasant stories, you could do worse.

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