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Teen bullying takes musical turn in stage version of 'Heathers'

By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Cyberbullying may be the new weapon of choice for teen harassment, but a stage musical rendition of the 1980s cult film "Heathers," shows just how little high school has changed.

"Watching the show come together in 2013, it's amazing how constant high school behavior remains nearly 25 years later and how high school behavior extends beyond one's teens," said J. Todd Harris, a producer of the musical of screenwriter Daniel Waters' 1988 film.

Although the dark, coming-of-age satire about teen suicide and high school life was a box office flop, it garnered critical acclaim while launching the careers of actors Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and Shannen Doherty. Waters won an Edgar Allen Poe Award for best screenplay.

The musical's producers are hoping to tap into the avid "Heathers" audience of yesteryear and attract a new audience who will relate to the show about a clique of domineering high school girls all named Heather at a fictional Ohio high school.

"Heathers: The Musical," which premieres in Los Angeles on Saturday at the small Hudson Backstage Theater, has sold out all of its planned performances through October 6.

"When 'Heathers' came out, it was such an outrageous take on Hollywood's typical approach to adolescence," said Andy Fickman, the musical's director.

"It pushed way beyond anything at the time. It showed (kids saying) 'let's have a party and kill someone,'" added Fickman, whose film credits include "The Game Plan" and "Parental Guidance." "Heathers appealed to high school and college students back then and I believe it will have the same impact with audiences today."

EYE ON BROADWAY

The show and film follow the friendship between rebellious student Veronica Sawyer and Jason "J.D." Dean, a sociopathic outsider, as they seek revenge on popular kids by killing them and making it appear as if the victims committed suicide.

Dean ultimately plots to blow up the school's entire student body, but is foiled by Sawyer. Dean winds up blowing up himself instead.

In the stage version, Veronica Sawyer will be played by Barrett Wilbert Weed, whose credits include Broadway's musical comedy "Lysistrata Jones" and Dean will be portrayed by Ryan McCartan, who appears in Disney Channel's "Liv and Maddie."

The musical, which enlisted writer and lyricist Kevin Murphy and "Legally Blonde" composer Larry O'Keefe, has show tunes with quirky titles like "My Dead Gay Son" and "Our Love Is God," inspired by the film's more notable scenes and dialogue.

The show's creators hatched the idea for a musical back in 2007 and got permission to produce the show from Lakeshore Entertainment, which bought the library of New World Pictures, the studio that produced the film.

Fickman said the musical's creative team aims for a Broadway run, noting the play has the backing of some of the producers involved in "Rock of Ages," which was also turned into a film starring Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough and Russell Brand.

"If this goes well, the next stop is to do a bigger production. Our eyes are on New York and other major cities," Fickman said.

(Editing by Eric Kelsey, Mary Milliken and Stacey Joyce)

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