Photo by Marcy Stamper

“Heathers” tackles difficult issues like cliques, bullying and school violence with unexpected humor and catchy musical numbers.

By Marcy Stamper

An especially timely story about teen cliques, bullying and school violence comes to the local stage next week in the drama “Heathers The Musical,” with unexpected humor and catchy musical numbers.

After months of rehearsal, the Liberty Bell Drama Company is refining the music and dance and the multifaceted sound and light effects for the compelling play, which opens May 16 at The Merc Playhouse in Twisp and continues through May 20.

Based on the cult movie from the 1980s, “Heathers The Musical — High School Edition” takes place at a school in Westerburg, Ohio, where student Veronica Sawyer (sophomore Chloe Blum) simply hopes to make it to graduation. But her relationships with a clique of three popular girls, all named Heather, and with J.D. (senior Cash McClain), a boy new to the school with an angry, destructive bent, dramatically alter her plans. Reverberations are felt throughout the school.

“While it’s set in a high school, the play has a lot to say about the world we live in. Veronica must choose to destroy the toxic, bully culture of Westerburg, or build a more beautiful culture to replace it,” said junior Tova Portmann-Bown in a synopsis for the program.

“It’s about bullying and the horrible things that can go on in high school,” said Danbert Nobacon, the drama coach at Liberty Bell, who co-teaches the drama class with English teacher Kelly Grayum. “Heathers” has become really relevant as a way of addressing these themes, said Nobacon.

The show touches on shifting friendships, threats and violence. “It’s really clever in the way it addresses these things together,” said Nobacon. “I like the messages in the show. It’s really relevant,” said freshman Julia Dietz, who plays one of the three Heathers.

The students in the drama class handle all aspects of the production, both on stage and backstage. “It’s a really cool process — first learning the songs, and then the play itself,” said freshman Liv Aspholm, who’s making her stage debut as another of the three Heathers.

About 26 students are on stage, with others creating another world with props, costumes and sets, while classmates work lights and two soundboards for the complex music tracks. Choreography is by freshmen Sadie Halpin and Cymone Van Marter.

“It’s a big ensemble — we really worked on that,” said Nobacon. “People come away with a real sense of achievement.”

“That’s the core of theater. We can collaborate on this thing — everyone is relying on everyone else. It creates this magic on stage,” he said.

“Heathers” will be staged on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, May 16,17 and 19 at 7 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday, May 20, at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for students. The show is PG-13 but contains moments of violence.