The Appalachian Musical Theater Club sold out all three performances of their steamy, dark comedy production of “Heathers: The Musical” to Legends over the weekend.
AMTC had originally planned to play “Heathers” in the fall of 2020; however, they postponed the screenings due to COVID-19. Manager Will Taylor said once operations began in 2021, he didn’t really think about continuing with ‘Heathers’ until he polled the club to see what musical everyone wanted to do. .
Taylor, a junior theater education student, said club members wanting to perform “Heathers” were almost unanimous. Taylor said many people at Club Expo this college year joined purely because of their enthusiasm for putting on the show.
AMTC performed the show Friday, Saturday and Sunday, totaling more than 900 people in attendance according to Taylor.
“Heathers” is a dark show dealing with a wide variety of difficult societal issues, Taylor said. the musical is adapted from 1989 film “Heathers.”
Taylor and her production team said the main hope of presenting the show was to emphasize the conversation about mental health and to dramatize the actions of the characters and emphasize the importance of the issues addressed.
Cali Lilly, the choreographer, said there was a fine line to walk with the show and the main struggle was to highlight themes without making the cast look like they were mocking them.
“There are characters who do really horrible things on the show. We need to make fun of people doing these things and not shine a light on the issues themselves,” said Lilly, a theater student.
In order to get the most out of the performers and ensure everyone was comfortable with the content, the production teams conducted daily intimacy and boundary checks with the actors, Chloe Zwilling said, a major in theater.
In addition to daily check-ins, the cast found other ways to keep things light when the going got tough. Zwilling said there was a competition between men and women to see who learned their part of music first.
In addition to the series’ heavy content, the cast also battled cramped rehearsal locations. Throughout their training since January, the actors have kept them inside the classrooms. Cast members wasted time because during practice they moved chairs and desks out of the rooms they were using, Taylor said.
The first time the cast rehearsed on stage was opening week. Zwilling said the rehearsal was mostly about working on the show’s technology, and after the rehearsal the actors weren’t allowed back until the show opened on Friday.
Taylor said these trials are a testament to the success of the student-run organization. The students within the organization did everything about the show without the help of the teachers.
Zwilling said the cast showed up every day with enthusiasm, professionalism, and “out of the park every time.”
Lily Breitinger, a freshman in political science, went to see the show twice. They said the show was amazing and their favorite role was the actor, Lacey Ballard, who played Martha and their “amazing” singing.
“I’m very proud as a music director to see how much they’ve grown,” Zwilling said. “They are the best.”
Zwilling said the room where the ATC first met was too small for the number of people at their first club meeting. Most of the people in that meeting are still with the organization, Taylor said.
The first time all the artists walked through the show, Taylor said he and his production team looked at each other and all the memories of the creative process rushed at him.
“To see it all together was amazing, and it’s something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life,” Taylor said.