Buffalo State musicals are back!

Angela Caico, Secretary

Students took on controversial, yet playful roles for SUNY Buffalo State College’s first musical since 2019. Their impressive rendition of the provocative 1989 film, starring Winona Rider, shows exactly why ‘Heathers’ has since become a cult classic.

“It’s a very dark comedy,” said director Jennifer Toohey. “So, it uses humor to deal with some really serious subject matter like sexual assault and suicide, and murder. Yes, you will be laughing inappropriately at all of those things and that is the idea.”

The story is about a bullied high school student who is suddenly befriended by three cruel popular girls, all named ‘Heather’. She is forced to watch her nerdy best friend continue to be tormented by them, fight off a sexual attack from football players and bear witness while her troubled new romantic interest begins killing off the high school elites one by one.

To cover her boyfriend’s tracks, she begins falsifying suicide notes after each student’s death.

The fun and outrageous play, presented by the Theatre Department and Casting Hall Productions, features sex, vulgarities, fist-fighting and homicide, including simulated gunfire.

To perform the taboo and risqué scenes, students had to acclimate to roles that did not emulate their personal beliefs or mannerisms. Castmates describe Carolyn Freeman, who played Heather Chandler, as having a personality completely opposite of her character, who is a heartless, foul-mouthed bully.

“Every single time we were rehearsing she would say, like, ‘hello slut,’ and then smile,” said castmate Kathleen Dunne, who played Heather Macnamara. “It was like a giggle because it’s so ridiculously not her.”

“It’s a very traumatizing role to play if you weren’t differentiating yourself from the character,” said Freeman.

The on-stage chemistry between the two main characters, Veronica and J.D., was something that had to be learned and practiced as well. Actors Lexus Hale and Cordell Hopkins engaged in several instances of kissing, and a simulated sex scene.

“We actually brought in an intimacy director to choreograph the scenes of intimacy,” said Toohey.

Underneath the satire, comedy, and scandalous subject matter lies a lesson.

“As we navigate our way through this ongoing pandemic, ‘Heathers’ shines a light on this precious chance we now have to reimagine the society we’ve built,” Toohey writes in the director’s note. “Not only are things not “what they should be”, they are not what they could be.”

“The message of the show is that society is pretty messed up, and maybe we can change it from the inside,” said Toohey.

That message also seemed to resonate clearly with the audience.

“It was serious situations but because of the way the comedy and the play turned out, it was better to understand the meaning, instead of it being like, too serious,” said an audience member.

“There’s an agreement between audience and performers, that what goes on is not real,” said Link Hagerty, who played Heather Duke. “Part of it for me was imitating a lot of the ugly I’ve seen in my own life.”

The entire team put forth a tireless effort to bring musicals back to Buffalo State with a bang. Their dedication, hard work and talent filled the auditorium with a contagious energy.

Toohey expressed gratitude for the staff, students and attendees for making their first post-Covid musical debut a memorable success.

“Tell your friends, tell your family, lets fill the theatre up. It’s nice to be back!,” she said.