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Cult classic adaptation gets Canberra debut

As if directing a full-scale, feature-length musical theatre production wouldn’t be a daunting prospect on its own, imagine doing it on top of full-time work while being pregnant.

It’s all part of the “wild ride” Heathers the Musical director Kelly Roberts has been on to bring the amateur production to the stage at Gungahlin Theatre.

“It’s been probably 14 months of conceptualised work, discussing, and getting our hands on every little bit of material we know about it.

“Three months of rehearsal and 14 months of work all up, which for an amateur show is a long time,” Roberts smiles.

“It’s a real balancing act. I did a show at school this year too. It’s hard fitting it all in but it’s so worth it because you love it and you find the time for it.”

Based on the 1988 black comedy cult classic starring Winona Ryder, Roberts says she revelled in bringing the “deliciously dark” high-school revenge saga to life on the stage.

“It’s quite a cult classic film, but the musical as well has become a bit of a cult classic with a younger audience.

“I’m a school teacher and a lot of my year 11 and 12 students are obsessed with the show, and I wondered how they all knew this 1988 movie, but they know it from the musical,” she says.

Roberts and her creative team, including co-director Grant Pegg, have strived to strike a balance between paying homage to the source material while bringing their own panache to the piece.

“The show has a lot of good one-liners from the film, but then it’s done to its own entity, which is nice. It’s not a slave to the movie.”

Heathers the Musical director Kelly Roberts strives to strike a balance between paying homage to the source material while bringing her own panache to the piece. Photos Eva Schroeder.

Dramatic Productions have definitely added their own flavour via the set. Their stage has been established in an abstract, yet stripped-back fashion, adorning it with oversized locker walls extending from the wings, and a big, dark staircase that sits upstage.

Roberts says they didn’t want to be too literal with their set design.

“We wanted to be able to move from space to space and allow the audience to use their imagination while maintaining some sense of where we are.”

In contrast, the dynamic, nostalgia-inducing costumes worn by the main cast are a nod to one of the film’s signature elements, with its wardrobe comprised bright, bold block colours.

Roberts says she’s excited to put on Canberra’s premiere production of the adaption.

“Everyone’s really committed, everyone’s there because they want to and we’ve all got the same goal, focus and purpose, which is nice.

“It’s a really different, unique show and it’s so much fun. It’s hilarious, dark, and there’s really amazing talent in this cast. We’ve been really lucky and got some really fantastic performers.”

In addition, 10% of the price of each ticket is being donated to a different local charity each night; those donations will then be matched by Masonicare.

Heathers is on now at Gungahlin Theatre, Gungahlin College until 27 October, visit stagecenta.com for tickets.

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