Two new summer musicals in the ATL are perhaps best known from their film versions. Actor’s Express is about to open “Little Shop of Horrors,” the best-known adaptation of which is the 1986 movie starring Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin. The hit musical, with book and lyrics by the late, openly gay playwright and lyricist Howard Ashman, is about a plant that grows to an enormous size and needs human blood to survive. And OnStage Atlanta just debuted its take on “Heathers: The Musical,” based on the cult classic “Heathers,” which starred Winona Ryder and Christian Slater and was about a popular female clique at high school and the murderous outsider who disrupts them. Directed by out director Charlie Miller, “Heathers” shares a lot with its film counterpart.
“The two are similar, but they combine a few characters,” he said. “As far as the story, the movie picks up with Veronica already being a part of the [clique] Heathers, and in the musical there is an opening song about her being accepted and transformed into the group. We get her backstory. There are some tweaks here and there. It’s tighter, I think.”
The show was produced by Georgia State University, the only theater company in town to ever do so. That’s a bit of a surprise, given its high profile.
“I think it’s edgy in the sense that there are some dark themes – killing, murder, teenage sex,” Miller said. “It’s a dark comedy for sure. I think some theaters would probably want to choose something safer. We think our audiences are going to love this. It’s my era. People who saw this when it came out in 1989 – those people are now parents of teenagers with fond memories of the movie.”
He thinks the material holds up very well, with themes of cliques, acceptance and loneliness.
“Every generation of students in high school faces that,” Miller said. “Freshmen in high school have to wonder, ‘Where do I fit and will I be alone at the lunch table?’ Veronica is looking for love and she falls for a bad boy.”
The show also has a gay subplot, although giving away the specific nature of that takes away the surprise for patrons unfamiliar with it.
In “Little Shop of Horrors,” Trevor Perry plays one of the urchins/ Doo Wop Girls in full drag. Perry has already appeared in several versions of the musical.
“It’s one of my favorite shows of all time,” Perry admitted. “It imprinted me when I was younger, at an early age. The Doo Wop Girls are such an important part of the musical. Being one has always been a dream.”
He feels his fellow Doo Wop Girls – Brittani Minnieweather and Kiona D. Rese – have strengths that they incorporate into this version.
“Kiona is a fabulous dancer and Brittani is the funniest of us all,” said Perry, who regularly performs drag at various venues around town under the name Gwendolyn Van Cartier.
“Heathers: The Musical”
Through August 13
2969 East Ponce de Leon Ave. Decatur, GA 30030
“Little Shop of Horrors”
July 15 – August 20
887 W. Marietta St., Atlanta, GA 30318