It’s probably not a coincidence that “Heathers: The Musical” is playing at Off-Broadway’s New World Stages, where “Rock of Ages” premiered five years ago before it transferred to Broadway.
With its heavy emphasis on shoulder pads, slurpies and scrunchies, its producers clearly want to position it to be the next musical to indulge in and parody 1980s pop culture and fashion.
Based on the1988 Winona Ryder-Christian Slater film, it centers on a down-to-earth high teenager (Barrett Wilbert Weed), who is invited to join an exclusive clique of mean girls all named Heather (Elle McLemore, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alice Lee).
Things get complicated when her outsider boyfriend (Ryan McCartan) plots to bring down the popular kids down through deadly means.
Written by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, who each mastered the art of the satirical musical in “Bat Boy” and “Reefer Madness” respectively, “Heathers” is a clever comedy with a dark streak and a catchy pop score that is unfortunately receiving a rough and aimless production under the direction of Andy Fickman.
In addition to the sloppy blocking, harsh lighting and empty set design, the performances are generally too aggressive and broad. Were they to tone it down, the musical would feel more coherent and the laughs would still land.
But the material still shines at many points, especially during a rousing act two opener where two fathers, having been led to believe that their athlete sons were secretly gay and committed suicide together, express their support for their sons’ choices and admit their own sexuality.
Perhaps “Heathers: The Musical” can find an audience among those who grew up on subsequent high school movies like “Clueless” and “Mean Girls.” And those who remember the film will recognize all the memorable lines (i.e. “What’s your damage?”) that have been carried over.
“Heathers: The Musical” plays at New World Stages through Sept. 7. 340 West 50th St., telecharge.com.