From “What’s your damage?” to the old favorite “F*ck me gently with a chainsaw,” Heathers has no shortage of quotable moments—we find excuses to work “very” into a conversation on a daily basis, don’t you? So when composers Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe teamed up to adapt the 1988 film into an off-Broadway musical, they had a challenging task ahead of them: Which of the black comedy’s hilarious, horrifying and downright insane moments would they include in the new show? Below, Murphy and O’Keefe take Broadway.com on a GIF tour of the 10 essential moments from the Heathers film that absolutely had to be a part of their oh-so-very new musical.
1. 'Greetings and Salutations'
Kevin Murphy: “In Charlotte’s Web, Charlotte greets Wilbur the Pig by saying ‘Salutations and greetings.’ One can only assume JD is a fan of great literature. In the movie Heathers, it’s JD’s first line and it’s such a memorable, oddly erudite choice of words for a high school kid, the audience clearly gets the signal that JD is an outsider. This line was at the top of our 'must include' list.”
2. 'I Love My Dead Gay Son'
Laurence O'Keefe: "(Spoiler alerts in pretty much every line ahead.) Just when you think the story can’t get darker, a funeral supplies the funniest line of the 1980s. A Midwestern dad struggles to understand his linebacker son, who he thinks died in a gay suicide pact. It’s an amazing dissonance: The sincere emotions of a grieving if misinformed father vs. the ludicrous wording, plus the twisted truth underneath it all. Not only was this line mandatory for our show, it had to be the title of a whole song. It’s a blistering, furious attack on bigotry and homophobia. And you can dance to it!"
3. 'What's Your Damage?'
Kevin Murphy: “One of the tricks Larry and I pulled in adapting this movie for the stage was taking iconic lines and ideas that were delivered flippantly or ironically in the film and digging down to find an extra layer of emotional resonance. We were attracted to the idea that while 'What’s your damage?' works as a snarky putdown, it’s also a valid question when asked seriously. Veronica’s only shot at saving the guy she loves is to identify and repair the emotional damage inflicted by his parents. That’s what they sing about in ‘Seventeen.’”
4. 'Lick It Up, Baby. Lick. It. Up!'
Laurence O'Keefe: This is when Veronica finally stands up to the evil regime of Heather Chandler (with the help of a little vomit), knowing it will get her excommunicated. Heather Chandler (wiping it off her skirt): ‘I raised you up from nothing, and what’s my thanks? I get paid in puke!’ Is there any possible better response? We thought about creating a song with that title, but very few words in English rhyme with 'up.'"
5. 'It'll Be Very'
Kevin Murphy: “This is probably the most famous of the teen catch-phrases Dan Waters invented in his Heathers screenplay. The teen slang was intended to be unfamiliar and timeless, like Anthony Burgess’ argot in A Clockwork Orange. It’s a testament to his imagination that 25 years have passed and his teenspeak sounds every bit as crisp and original as it did in 1989. Woe to the unlucky musical theater writer that adapts The Breakfast Club and is obligated to put Judd Nelson’s 'neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie' insult on stage in front of an audience."
6. 'Our Love Is God'
Laurence O'Keefe: “The strangest and most magical line in the movie. In the film, 'Our love is God' is a throwaway by Christian Slater’s JD, followed by '...Let’s go get a Slushie.' But it stuck in our heads as a truly weird moment. And sure enough, when we wanted a title for the song to show JD’s rage and insecurity mutating into megalomania and mass murder, that line became our title. Because musicals traffic in love, we decided that the trigger for JD’s madness would be his love for Veronica. So he elevates his love for her to an excuse for violence against everyone who threatens him.”
7. 'F*ck Me Gently With a Chainsaw'
Kevin Murphy: “It wouldn’t be Heathers without this line, we had to include it. It’s used early in the movie, but we were determined not to use the word 'f*ck' in the show until the end of Act One when Veronica sees Kurt and Ram’s dead bodies and asks JD, ‘What the f*ck have you done?’ The F-bomb has great power. Fortunately for us, we deviated from the movie by keeping Dead Heather Chandler around to haunt Veronica as a kind of bitchy Jiminy Cricket.”
8. 'Chaos Is What Killed the Dinosaurs'
Laurence O'Keefe: “In the movie the ‘dinosaurs’ line is JD’s gleeful boast as he sets out to launch his murderous campaign nationwide. For the show, we put it into the song 'Our Love Is God' and made it about our lovers. It's my favorite lyric: We can start and finish wars / We’re what killed the dinosaurs / We’re the asteroid that’s overdue./The dinosaurs choked on the dust / They died because God said they must / The new world needed room for me and you.”
9. 'I Just Killed My Best Friend...'
Kevin Murphy: “Years before Sex and the City popularized the concept of ‘frenemies,’ Dan Waters shone a spotlight on the uncomfortable truth that a teen girl’s so-called 'best friend' is frequently the most toxic and hurtful person in her life. It’s one of the most important ideas in the movie, and remains so in the musical.”
10. 'Big Fun'
Laurence O'Keefe: “Big Fun is the perfect name for a fictional '80s band! In the movie, Big Fun’s hit single ‘Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It)’ is a fantastic bit of dead-on satire. We had script drafts where Big Fun played live in a radio station, or at a school anti-suicide rally, but we kept cutting the song and the band. But the name stuck with us, so it’s now the title of another song we love. It's the rallying cry of Westerberg High’s popular kids as they throw a Homecoming party and cheerfully wreck Ram’s parents’ house. I was never invited to those parties.”
See Heathers at New World Stages.