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'Heathers' to open Corn Stock winter season

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Nyk Sutter believes all of us, at one time or another, had to deal with a bully or two. Or perhaps we were bullies.

“Either way, most of us will be able to relate to a situation involving bullies and realize it’s all dealing with choices and repercussions. Violence is not the way; it’s never the way,” Sutter said before a dress rehearsal of the musical “Heathers” at Corn Stock Theatre’s Winter Playhouse.

“Being that kid who was bullied and tormented in high school, this show struck me. It’s got a message, and that’s why I submitted it,” he said.

Sutter is directing the show that is making its regional premiere when it opens Friday at the Playhouse in Upper Bradley Park. It is the first show of Corn Stock’s winter season. Show times during the six-show run are 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 12-14 and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15.

“Heathers” is a dark comedy that focuses on a high school student named Veronica Sawyer who comes to a new school and starts hanging with a clique of girls all named Heather and all bullies in their own way. But she falls for another student and the Heathers aren’t pleased and they make plans to get rid of Veronica. But the plans backfire in gunfire and havoc ensues.

The music is mostly rock, with some that is reminiscent of musicals from the 1980s, Sutter said. Sutter is using a live, seven-piece band conducted by Dana Sloter.

Songs from “Heathers” include “Fight For Me,” “Dead Girl Walking,” “Blue,” “Our Love is God,” and “Seventeen.”

His cast is a mixture of Corn Stock veterans and newbies, headed by Rebekah Dentino as Veronica. Dentino showed her talent for turning innocence into darkness last year in “Shape of Things” at Corn Stock. “She is Veronica,” Sutter said.

Joey Banks is making his Corn Stock Theatre debut as JD, the boy Veronica falls for who becomes the Heathers’ biggest enemy.

The Heathers are portrayed by a trio of local community performers who makes their names bigger with every role they play. Mariah Thornton is Heather Chandler, the boss lady of the bunch, while Nora Drew is Heather McNamara and Jillian Risinger is Heather Duke. While believing all three are perfect in their roles, Sutter said the biggest surprise may be Risinger. “She plays mean very well, and that is not her personality at all,” he said.

Maggie Sloter, who also was music director for the show, portrays Martha Dunnstock, the student who gets the bulk of the bullying. Madison Boedecker will play Martha Dunnstock in the final performance.

Bullies Ram Sweeney and Kurt Kelly are portrayed by Jake Van Horn and Alex Scranton, respectively. Their fathers are portrayed by Mike Reams and Matt Stubbs, and Sandra Iadipaolo is Miss Fleming/Veronica’s Mom.

This show, Sutter said, has roles that are “the high school stereotypes; geeks, the preppy stud, young Republicanettes, the spastic space case. They are funny. It is a funny show; dark but funny. It is certainly not family friendly,” adding there is gunfire and rough language.

In fact, Sutter said he got signed parental consent before casting the five high students in his cast. “Anybody under 18 had to have their parents’ consent. I felt it was important because of the theme of the show,” he said.

The theme was why the cast performed last Friday during a cabaret at the Waterhouse in downtown Peoria. Proceeds from that show went to the national “Stamp Out Bullying” campaign.

“Everybody had that Heather in school that they had to deal with. This is a show that is really about coming to terms with yourself and learning to make the right choices. It’s about learning that high school and bullies are only temporary and that the beauty of the heart will always prevail. I really believe that and that’s what I want audiences to take away from this show,” Sutter said.

Tickets for “Heathers” are $18 each, $12 for students and can be ordered by calling 676-2196 or visiting www.cornstocktheatre.com. Season tickets for all the winter productions also are sale for $50 each.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).