Albert Coyne as JD, Hannah Halischak as Heather Chandler and Shelby Martell as Veronica in “Heathers: the musical.” Credit: Matt Hazard

An upcoming Department of Theatre production will combine murder and showtunes.

For the next two weekends, the department will put on “Heathers: The Musical” at the Drake Performance Center’s Thurber Theatre.

The musical — which is based on the cult classic film, is about Veronica Sawyer — a senior at Westerberg High School, who gets wrapped up in a clique of mean girls called “The Heathers.” At the same time, she meets JD, who gets her to help him “make the world a better place” by killing the school bullies and passing their deaths off as suicides.

Constance Hester, a fourth-year in theater and co-assistant director of “Heathers,” said OSU’s rendition of the musical stays true to the original Broadway show and the film, but is different in that the show is meant to be presented as Veronica’s memory of her time in high school.

“The set is completely different than anything we have ever done,” Hester said. “It’s more of a memory and it’s kind of grotesque, and it looks like it needs to be dusted, but the costumes and everything are bright and colorful and in the now.”

Although she has helped direct plays in the past, Hester said she’s never worked on a musical before.  She said working on “Heathers” was even more different because, even as a comedy, the show focuses on many serious social issues as well.

“In this production, we’ve really focused on the fact that there’s suicides in the show and the fact there’s very close sexual assault moments,” Hester said. “So there’s just a lot that I wasn’t expecting coming on board that we dealt with, and a lot of social issues that we dealt with.”

Albert Coyne, a third-year in theater, who plays JD, said another element that makes this production of “Heathers” different from other renditions of the musical, is the on-stage dynamic between characters.

“Everyone in the show, ensemble, the leads, everyone, on stage and off, is always doing something,” Coyne said. “It’s always so interesting to watch everyone telling these stories. The actors on stage, they all have their own little plot lines that are going on, sort of behind the scenes.”

Shelby Martell,  a first-year in speech and hearing science and music and voice, who plays Veronica, said something unusual about preparing for this show is there were a few days at the beginning of rehearsals where the cast did “book work.”

During “book work,” Martell said the cast was able to discuss how to play their parts, how to understand the words in the script and how a part should be done.

“We would read through parts of the script and then stop and then analyze and think and start to form ideas,” she said. “I thought it was really cool and something I’ve never done in a production before.”

Martell said she wants audiences who come see the show to keep an open mind and reflect on their own high school experiences.

“Since this is a college campus and ‘Heathers’ takes place in high school, maybe come with an open mind to reflect about their high school experiences,” Martell said. “Even their relationships with people in college, and how cruelly we can treat each other or how these problems in our society happens and what’s the best way to invoke change.”

“Heathers: The Musical” will be performed from April 13 to 15 and April 18 to 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Drake Performance Center’s Thurber Theatre. Tickets are $15 for students, $20 for OSU faculty, staff, Alumni Association members and seniors and $25 for the general public.