Going back to high school may sound like a fate worse than death for many, but for Barrett Wilbert Weed, it was an opportunity she wanted more than anything.
Weed will be seen as Veronica, the rebellious teenager in Heathers, the upcoming musical adaptation of Dan Waters' cult 1988 film. The musical, which features book, music and lyrics by Tony Award nominee Laurence O'Keefe (Legally Blonde, Bat Boy) and Emmy Award winner Kevin Murphy ("Reefer Madness," "Desperate Housewives"), tells the story of a powerful and vicious high school clique, led by three teenage girls all named Heather.
The film starred Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, respectively, as Veronica and her boyfriend JD, who refuse to abide by the norms of high school and wage a war against the bullies — but whose romance suffers when JD takes the rebellion too far. The musical begins previews March 15, prior to an official opening March 31 — the 25th anniversary of the film's release — at New World Stages.
Weed, whose stage credits include the 2012 Off-Broadway production of Bare, as well as A Lasting Impression, F*cking Hipsters and the Broadway premiere of Lysistrata Jones, spoke with Playbill.com about taking on the role of Veronica, the iconic status of the film and the Heathers of her own high school. How did you come into this project?
Barrett Wilbert Weed: I actually hadn't seen the movie "Heathers" until two years ago. I finished watching the movie, and I turned to my roommate and said, "That is the greatest thing I've ever seen!" He said, "Did you know they're making a musical of that?" And I said, "No, they're not!" Then I immediately e-mailed all of my people and said, "The word on the street is that this is becoming a musical. You have to keep your eyes peeled for me." Then the breakdown came through, and I flipped out and made a hundred tapes — way more tapes than they asked me to make.
What is it about the movie that you think is translating so well into this musical?
BWW: It's so exciting. We're floored. I think the tone of the movie is what translates so well. It's a comedy, but it's not a comedy. It's only funny because it's true. It's anyone's fantasy come to life. The deaths are amazing — the anxiety and the craziness. It just makes for really good theatre.
How do you think this show speaks to teenagers and young adults in present-day culture?
BWW: When "Mean Girls" came out, I was 15. So I saw that movie and was like, "That is so funny." But it still has that fluffy happy ending, and that doesn't happen in high school. I feel like this is really the only story about high school that portrays it as it is, as it feels when it's happening to you — which is like, "This is hell, this is horrible, and it's never going to end. And there's nothing I can do to change it."
It's just this weird rite of passage that everyone in America has to go through. Let's put all these kids together at the worst time in their lives and have them deal with it and try to survive it. It makes no sense. I think that's the main value of Heathers — this is how it feels. Everything that we're going through, that's how it felt for me in high school — being tortured and feeling like there was nothing I could do to stop it.
|photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN|
Did you have a Heather in your high school?
BWW: Oh my God. I had so many Heathers. I've blocked them all out. I've always been this height and I've always been loud and silly... Obviously, they beelined right for me and were like, "Let's kill that girl." High school was a rough time, for sure.
What kind of reaction do you hope this show will inspire in the audience?
BWW: I think this is something that we have to deal with. We have to train our kids better and really enforce in them that no matter what mainstream media and pop culture and all of the terrible things around us say — that it's ok to tear people down, that somehow it will make you feel better, and it's ok to gossip about people — it won't make you feel better. And, siding with the people who do those things — none of it is going to help. All you can really do is try to be a good person and try to make good decisions and try to survive.
High school is something that we have to deal with. It's not a glorified fluffy, fun, prince and princess kind of time. It's heinous, and we have to start helping people more. I think we're a lot better off than we used to be, for sure, and people are a lot more aware. It's just got to get better.
Now that you're revisiting high school with this role, if you could go back in time and talk to yourself as a teenager, what would you say?
BWW: I would say, "Don't talk to anyone." I actually got really lucky. I transferred to a performing arts school. But those first two years... man. I would say, "Dear little Barrett, You are special. You are fine. You are pretty. But it doesn't matter. Just keep your head down and keep singing and don't talk to anyone." I think that would be the most practical advice.
When you were making the audition tapes for Heathers, did you film a scene of yourself being hit with a croquet ball, like in the opening sequence of the movie?
BWW: I wish that I had! If you were my roommate, then I would have made that video. I would have made you throw a croquet ball at my head!
(Carey Purcell is the Features Editor of Playbill.com. Her work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com. Follow her on Twitter @PlaybillCarey.)