Barrett Wilbert Weed is relatively new to the New York theater scene, but when she makes her first entrance in Heathers: The Musical at off-Broadway’s New World Stages, she’s met with deafening cheers and applause. That’s because the Lysistrata Jones and Bare alum is tackling the iconic role of Veronica Sawyer, made famous by Winona Ryder in the cult ‘80s film of the same name. In the new musical adaptation, Weed is tortured by bullies, welcomed (kinda) into the treacherous in-crowd with Heather, Heather and Heather, controlled by her intense boyfriend J.D. and nearly blown up, all while belting an infectious score by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy. Below, Weed tells Broadway.com about taking a chance to star in the new musical, what it’s like to have “half-clothed, kind-of-believable sex” in front of a screaming crowd and her own high school fantasies of offing the popular kids.
When did you first hear about Heathers: The Musical?
My roommate-slash-best-friend Jared Loftin and I were both bored and unemployed and we were watching Netflix and he said, “Have you ever seen Heathers?” And I was like, “No, but I’ve heard about it, so let’s do it right now.” We watched the movie and he said, “Did you know this is going to be a musical?” And I was like, “Allll right! Game on!” I completely threw myself into the auditions and it all happened really quickly. They cast everything within a couple of weeks and then it was like, “Move to L.A.!”
You just dropped everything and moved to L.A. on the spot?
Yeah, we had to move to L.A. on our own dime and be a local hire. A lot of people weren’t willing to do that, and I thought everyone was crazy. There was no housing, they didn’t put us up. But I was like, “What are you talking about? This is going to be incredible. Have you heard any of the music?” It’s the best score that’s been written for a musical comedy in I don’t know how long. From the comedy to the inappropriateness of some songs to the beauty of others… How can you say no to that?
What is it about the movie that hooked you?
Oh my God, it’s so amazing. It wasn’t a commercial success when it first came out, but I think it’s become so popular because it resonates with so many people. It’s how I felt growing up. I was brutalized for my entire childhood. At this point, there's more than half of my life that I would love to not remember.
Really? That’s horrible!
Yeah. I’ve always been silly and loud, and in my memory I’ve been 5’9” since I was 11. People beelined right for me. It was awful for a really long time. So I definitely had elaborate murder fantasies growing up. After that movie, I was like, "Yeah, that’s how it felt, that’s how it is." It was awful.
Damn, maybe it’s a good thing you didn’t see the movie earlier!
I know! [Laughs.]
Are the audiences in New York just as rowdy as in California?
Most of our performances are just people screaming their faces off, and that’s a lot of what it was in L.A. People just waiting for their favorite lines and then jumping all over them. Even new stuff—the sex scene gets ridiculous applause. There were so many nights in L.A. where Ryan McCartan [who plays J.D.] and I almost broke because it was so preposterous. We’re kissing and taking each other’s clothes off and people are like, “YEAAHHH!” [Laughs.]
They’ve been waiting—they haven’t seen a teen sex scene this intense since Spring Awakening.
It’s another girl having half-clothed, kind-of believable sex! It’s nice to be applauded when you take your clothes off.
It’s very affirming.
Yes, although something bizarre happened last night. We just got my blazer back from the cleaners and there must have been a pin stuck in the sleeve. It stuck my wrist and a couple fingers and cut the sh*t out of me. I was bleeding profusely all over poor Ryan during our sex scene! There was blood all over his torso. During the blackout I whispered in his ear, “I’m really sorry! I cut myself and just bled all over you.” And he was like, “Just wipe it on my jeans or something, they’re black.” Then I had to hold my hand in an awkward fist for the next two scenes because I couldn’t get offstage.
Oh no! Are you OK now?
Yeah, now it looks like I got in a really bad fight with a cat. That’s the nature of previews; it’s like Russian roulette. We’re still working out the kinks, so something crazy is going to happen every single night.
I heard Winona Ryder saw the show in L.A., did you get to meet her?
Yeah, she came to closing night, as did Billy Crystal and a bunch of absurdly famous people. They all sat right next to each other during the performance and we were all like, “OK, if you’re gonna come and like, be a celebrity, you can’t all sit next to each other so we can see you. You have to go hide in the back.” [Laughs.] Winona was great, and she stayed for the party afterwards and we got to talk for a really long time. We both cried a little bit! She’s just so lovely, she’s like a magical woodland fairy.
See Barrett Wilbert Weed in Heathers, opening March 31 at New World Stages.