The mean girls are taking the stage, and this time they're singing and dancing.
Jessica Keenan Wynn, Alice Lee and Elle McLemore play Heather Chandler, Heather Duke and Heather McNamara, respectively, the most powerful clique in school who take Veronica ( Barrett Wilbert Weed) under their wing, in Heathers, the musical adaptation of Dan Waters' cult movie that is currently in previews at New World Stages. After a glimpse of life in the in crowd, Veronica begins to rebel, and the Heathers find themselves in danger of losing more than just their social status.
Wynn's stage credits include Life Could Be A Dream and Les Miserables, and Lee has performed on Broadway in Spring Awakening and Off-Broadway in Bare. McLemore's stage work includes Bring It On: The Musical.
The trio, whose group number "Welcome to My Candy Store" presents them as an evil Andrews Sisters trio, chatted with Playbill.com about wearing the iconic blazers and scrunchies of the Heathers, as well as finding the kindness in their characters. Were you familiar with "Heathers" the movie before coming onto this project?
Jessica Keenan Wynn: I knew of the movie, [but] I had never seen it. "Clueless" was our genre... "Mean Girls"... they seem a very truthful tale in comparison to the John Hughes genre.
Elle McLemore: ["Heathers"] is such a good movie.
How are you humanizing your characters? Can you tell me a little bit about finding the human aspects in the Heathers?
JKW: Heather Chandler's a calculating, Mussolini type. She has a very well-oiled machine, with the school and the people in it. I feel like there's definitely a sense of loneliness to tap into when she's kind of crossed and put in her place. It's hard to find humanity in Heather Chandler, but it does exist. Maybe she's a little unloved. You can't help but feel like maybe she didn't get the love, so she doesn't know how to give it. But it's really fun still finding those elements.
Alice Lim: I think with Heather Duke as well, it's just that feeling of wanting to fit in. She wants to fit in with the Heathers, always wants to be with the Heathers. And then stuff goes down. Heather Duke is always kind of mean, but I think deep inside, she's just hurt.
EM: My character in particular gets a really strong character arc towards the end, dealing with the bullying. But you don't get to see it until the beginning of the second act. I get to bring some humanity to it. It's not as strong in the movie, but we got to add a lot more depth to the musical.
How do you think this show speaks to a present-day audience that deals with bullying, especially cyber-bullying?
JKW: Our show has the message of hope, optimism and authenticity. That you can still be yourself and end up on top. And staying true to yourself and being able to go through life and be happy and enjoy the things that come your way. Clearly this is a show about bullying, but in the end, it is optimistic and very hopeful.
AL: And, it's kind of cool to be the bullied at the end — they end up on top. It's not like they're being victimized in the end. It's very optimistic.
Being a teenage girl can be really hard.
JKW, AL & EM: Yes!
If you could go back and talk to yourself in high school, what would you say?
JKW: It gets better. Stay true to yourself and keep trucking.
AL: It really is going to be OK. In the moment you think that's it; it's the end-all. But really, time just goes by.
EM: Just do your own thing. Don't worry about what people think. It's hard to do, but you can.
JKW: There are always Heathers in your life. Even as an adult.
Did you have any Heathers in your high school?
AL: There were a couple of Taylors in my high school. Maybe three Taylors. They were all from different groups. But I think there's always that one girl or boy who's not nice, you just have to deal with.
JKW: There were some boys, there were some Rams and Curts — there were no Heathers — which can be just as bad.
(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.)