High school never ends for Abby Perkins in “Heathers”

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After spending eight months in Australia and the South Pacific starring in three original productions with Celebrity Cruises Productions, Abby Perkins has returned to the Slow Burn Theater Company to star as Veronica Sawyer in “Heathers.” This fun and deliciously dark musical will take you back to high school, and you can catch Perkins’s performance at the Broward Center of Performing Arts until June 26.

I had the opportunity to speak to Perkins about her role in “Heathers.”

Can you tell us a little about ‘Heathers?’
“’Heathers’ was originally a movie in the 1980’s; it’s sort of the original Mean Girls. It’s basically about these three girls, all named Heather, who run the school. We follow the main character, Veronica, and her journey of becoming friends with these girls, so that she won’t be bullied at school. So she becomes friends with these girls, and along the way meets this character J.D., who she falls for. He’s very mysterious and dreamy, but she quickly realizes that he’s got a dark side. And when Veronica accidentally kills Heather with J.D., who did it on purpose, they both enter a downward spiral and she starts to realize that she’s using the power that she has gained for bad, and not for good. Throughout the show Veronica has self-discovery about how to use her power at school for good, and not evil like the Heathers.”

What made you want to be an actress?
“I’ve been a dancer since I was a kid and I’ve always been involved in the arts, in one way or another. The first time that I decided that I wanted to be an actress was when I watched Bernadette Peters in ‘Into the Woods.’ She was playing the witch, and when I watched her, I thought, ‘This is what I want to do. I want to be her.’ “

What drew you to audition for Heathers?
“Patrick and I have worked together quite a bit throughout the years, and we were doing a show called ‘High Fidelity,’ and this musical came out and exploded within the Broad Way world and community. Once we listen to the music we knew that this would be a great show for us to do, and when he announced that they were holding auditions I knew I had to audition for this role. It’s perfect for me and it’s a dream role for me. I felt like vocally it would be a good fit, and it’s pretty much a dream role for anyone who is my age or anyone who is my type, acting-wise and vocally. So what really drew me to the role was the challenge.”

Do you think you share anything in common with your character, Veronica?
“Oh, absolutely. Aside from killing off her friends. In high school I definitely felt different, I wasn’t bullied but I knew that I didn’t really fit in with the popular girls. I was more of a theater dork all throughout school. So [Veronica] has one friend, Martha, who she’s been friends with for her entire life, and I definitely identify with that. I had a really good friend when I was a kid that I’m still friends with, actually. But when I was in high school I wanted to be one of the popular girls, I wanted to try out for cheerleading and all of that, but it never really fit with who I am. So when Veronica goes through the same thing, she realizes that it’s not who she really is, and she just wants to be herself. She’s not a Heather, she’s a Veronica. I think by my senior year [of high school] I realized that’s how I was too. I’m not really one of the ‘mean girls,’ I’m a Veronica; I’m just a little different than everyone else. Which I think you realize is a good thing as you get older.”

How did you prepare for the role of Veronica?
“I watched the film quite a bit, and did some character work so that I would have a place to start. And of course, I listened to the soundtrack a million times. We were given the score and the script a few months in advance, so I had quite a bit of time to work on that. Vocally, it is extremely challenging — possibly one of the most challenging things someone my age can sing. I’m pretty sure anyone who has played this role would agree. But I always make sure I warm up before I sing and maintain my vocal health. As far as character work goes, I just watched the film and I did get to see the off-Broadway production. I watched the way that both were done and picked out what worked and what didn’t work. I just decided to put my own spin on what I think the character should be in my version.”

Do you think the musical is a good representation of the original film?
“I honestly think that the musical is better than the film. If people enjoy the film, then they’ll love the musical. At the time that the film was released no one knew that it would be a huge cult classic, but there are a lot of holes in the movie and I don’t think there’s enough character development. But now it’s 2016 and these geniuses wrote this musical and really gave all of these characters a lot color. You see why these characters are the way they are, and it makes you care a lot more about them. It is a good representation of the film because it keeps all of those characteristics and personalities, but the musical really gives it a lot more color.”

Why do you think people should see ‘Heathers?’
“I think people should see “Heathers” because it’s a classic 80’s cult film, and if you enjoyed the movie, then you’ll enjoy the musical. I think people should come see it because it’ll make them laugh for sure, but it will also touch them in a way they’re not expecting. I think people will identify with he characters. Hopefully it will get people to think about the days back when they were in high school and how high school really doesn’t ever end. It just keeps going and it’s really important to be aware of that.”

What do you want the audience to take away from your performance?
“Hopefully they’ll enjoy it, but I really hope to say something more than, “Hey, look how high I can belt,” or “Look at all of these dance moves.” I hope they really look into the story and ultimately feel moved by it.”

What has been your favorite aspect of being a cast member on this production?
“It’s all been really wonderful. I love working with Patrick and Matthew, they’re like family to me. I’ve been away traveling and performing in the South Pacific for about eight months, so it’s been a great pleasure to come back home. [The cast] really makes you feel very comfortable in the workroom and it’s just been great process. The cast is just unbelievable, and this is some of the hardest music that I’ve heard so far in my career and the ensemble is just doing an amazing job.”

Which scene do you enjoy preforming the most, and why?
“I think I enjoy Dead Girl Walking, it’s kind of a kicker to the show. It’s definitely Veronica’s defying gravity, if you will. I enjoy doing that, and it’s fun to play with Bruno who plays J.D. I also really enjoy Seventeen, which is one of the most beautiful songs in the show. It’s really well written and constructed, so I really enjoy it. But they are two very different songs.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF: E. LIVINGSTON

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