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‘Heathers’ faces tough high school issues

The cast of "Blithe Spirit" tries to contact the "other side" during a séance. The play stars, from left, Carolyn Hogan, Stephen Zamora, Jen Stephenson, Clifton Chadwick and Sari Jensen. (Courtesy of Jim Welker)

The cast of “Blithe Spirit” tries to contact the “other side” during a séance. The play stars, from left, Carolyn Hogan, Stephen Zamora, Jen Stephenson, Clifton Chadwick and Sari Jensen. (Courtesy of Jim Welker)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Like so many American high school students, Veronica Sawyer just wants to fit in.

So Veronica falls in with a trio of girls whose first names are part of the title of this show – “Heathers the Musical.”

There’s Heather Duke, Heather McNamara and the leader of the nasty little pack, Heather Chandler.

A new production of the cult musical opens a two-weekend run Friday, Jan. 6, at Musical Theatre Southwest.

“It’s a comedy with dark humor and pokes fun at how these kids are so awful to each other,” said Devon Frieder, who portrays Veronica.

“It shows the dark side of high school, about bullying and social cliques.”

The 1989 film version was controversial because it faced tough issues, sharply contrasting with movies about the magical world of high school, such as “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club,” Frieder said. She is also the production’s director, producer and choreographer.

“Heathers the Musical,” which is based on the film, had a short run off Broadway in 2014, and many bought the CD of the cast recording.

“It’s had a following since then. It’s popular with young people,” she said.

Frieda said that after joining the Heathers clique, Veronica falls for J.D., a sort of bad boy.

“The two of them want to make things right with the Heathers and with high school society. Veronica has to learn the difference between revenge and justice, and that maybe revenge isn’t always the best way to make a change,” she said.

Rodrigo Zaragoza plays J.D., whom the actor described as “a troubled young man. He’s a transplant. He’s been moving around the country because of his dad’s work. He’s a lone wolf, and he’s OK with it.”

J.D. and Veronica’s relationship snowballs from platonic to romantic.

Jessica Quindlen’s Heather Chandler is “the queen bee of nastiness.”

Portraying Heather Duke is Kiersten Johnson, and Heather McNamara is played by Veronica Baca.

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