Monday, September 22, 2014

Musical Spotlight: Heathers

Guys, I can't stop listening to this musical. I love it so so so much. I haven't fallen in love with a musical this hard since... gosh, I don't even know. Sleeping Beauty Wakes, maybe. Of course, it did help that I got chance to see a bootleg of the off-Broadway show. I'm pretty sure I would have liked a lot of this music anyway, but hearing everything in context was fantastic.

The songs were written by Laurence O'Keefe (Legally Blonde, Bat Boy) and Kevin Murphy (Reefer Madness), all of which are musicals I love a bunch, so I was thoroughly expecting to enjoy this, but I had no idea that I was going to love it this much.

I've been realizing over the last year that the things that connect with me most deeply emotionally are often things that tackle deep issues with a bit of a snarky or cynical touch. (One of these days I'm going to write a blog about that.) Heathers is definitely one of those. It matches up with the tone of the original movie really well (which I also recently watched and loved), mixing the serious with the darkly absurd... though I'd say the musical has more moments of surprising sincerity than the movie does.

This post will definitely have spoilers, so if you haven't seen the movie or the musical and don't want spoilers... go watch the movie (it's on Netflix) and then come back and read this post. Go. Go now.

The plot centers around a girl named Veronica who is part of the cool clique in her high school (she is the only one there not named Heather, and the only one who feels qualms about being mean to the uncool kids) but ends up getting romantically involved with a clearly mentally disturbed bad boy named J.D. Together, the two start killing off the cool kids and passing the deaths off as suicides.

It was really really really really difficult to choose just five favorite songs from this show. Like... a lot. I wanted to include every single one of them. But I managed to stick to just the five.

As a heads up for my more easily-bothered readers, songs with * have cursing in them (Which is most of the songs in the show). Also, these are lyric videos, so even though they look like they have all the same album art going on, there is something to look at when you play them.

In chronological order:

*1. Fight for Me
This is Veronica's first encounter with J.D., when he gets into a fist fight with one of the jerk jocks at school... and she's kind of into that and sings a whole song about it. This was also the first song from the musical I really fell in love with. It's such an unusual love song, and I think that's what really draws me to it. It was also when I discovered I loved Barrett Wilbert Weed's voice (the girl who plays Veronica). It's so interesting to listen to.

*2. Dead Girl Walking
I've already written a bit about this song on my "Girl Power!" showtunes mix from last month, and it actually was the one that inspired the mix in the first place. While, er,  no, I don't think it's a great idea to drunkenly climb into a guy's bedroom through the window in the middle night, wake him up, and demand he sleep with you the way Veronica does here, the music is fantastic and rocky and it is a ton of fun to sing along with. Just listening to this song always makes me feel more energized.

(I played this one time on with one of my friends who listens primarily to metal and is not generally a showtunes person, and when it was done he said he kinda liked it.)

3. Lifeboat
And now we get into a couple of the more serious songs. In this one, one of the Heathers (whose best friend and boyfriend have both died at this point) admits that she's been very depressed recently, and sings this short, very sad song about the pressure of living up to everyone else's standards, and she feels it's only a matter of time before everything falls apart and she's tossed. It's the first time we (and Veronica) see a glimpse of humanity from the cool kids, and while killing them up until this point has been shown as some sort of noble act of justice, suddenly it seems... not so much.

4. Kindergarten Boyfriend
So back when I was an especially emo high schooler who collected unrequited love showtunes and "no one will ever love me" songs, I would have been all over this song. Even though I am less emo these days, I still empathize very, very strongly with this character, one of the unpopular kids who has been picked on for years and years and years.

The character up until this point has been naively optimistic about the idea that maybe she won't be bullied so much this year and maybe the quarterback likes her, and this song captures the heartbreaking desire to hold onto hope while being crushed with the realization that the world is sometimes very ugly.

*5. Meant to Be Yours
As I was compiling this list, the above four were "must haves," but as I tried to decide what to round it out with, I realized I didn't have any songs from the guys in the show. Granted, this is a girl-heavy musical, but the guys have some awesome songs as well. So I decided on this one.

Veronica has decided she doesn't want to hurt anyone anymore, and she tells J.D. so in no uncertain terms. He threatens her, only to come back and sing this song to her, where he describes his plan for killing everyone in the school at once in the hopes of making some sort of statement about society and says he needs her to be there with him. When he opens the door to her room, he finds her (supposedly) dead body, sings his love for her, but then vows to carry on the work they started.

I find the music to this song just fascinating to listen to. It does an awesome job of switching between J.D.'s tender, emotional proclamations of love and his clearly unhinged fantasies of violence. It does everything it needs to to build the tension of his character toward the end of the show.

There are so many more incredible songs, so if you liked any of these, go buy the cast recording as a whole because IS AMAZING.

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