Hot and Pissed and On the Pill

One of the coolest songs in Heathers, “Dead Girl Walking,” is also a master class in lyric writing and storytelling, courtesy of Larry O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy.

Veronica has risen to the peak of high school society and now she has fallen. But instead of licking her wounds, she becomes active for the first time, no longer just recording life in her diary, no longer doing what others command, but now actively making choices and choosing a path.

Of course, the greatest irony here, in a show positively dripping with it, is that while Veronica rejects passivity to the Heathers, soon she will become equally passive to J.D.

As the homecoming party moves inside Ram's house, Veronica takes us on a whirlwind tour of plot. In the first two verses of "Dead Girl Walking," she assesses her situation and makes a big decision, in the chorus she takes action, and as the song climaxes, we see what she learned from the Heathers, to take what she wants.
The demon queen of high school has decreed it:
She says Monday, 8 a.m., I will be deleted.
They’ll hunt me down in study hall;
Stuff and mount me on the wall.
Thirty hours to live – how shall I spend them?

I don't have to stay and die like cattle:
I could change my name and ride up to Seattle.
But i don't own a motorbike – wait ...
Here's an option that I like:
Spend those thirty hours gettin' freakay!

I need it hard.
I'm a dead girl walkin'!
I'm in your yard.
I'm a dead girl walkin'!
Before they punch my clock,
I'm snapping off your window lock.
Got no time to knock,
I'm a dead girl walkin'!

This narration of Veronica approaching J.D.'s bedroom is mirrored in Act II in "Yo Girl," when the ensemble sings of J.D. approaching Veronica's bedroom, but this time looking for violence, not just violent sex:
Guess who’s right down the block?
Guess who's climbing the stairs?
Guess who's picking your lock?
Time's up. Go say your prayers.

But back to "Dead Girl Walking"... Veronica comes into J.D.'s bedroom, and initiates hot, rough sex:
Had to see you, hope I didn't wake you.
See, I decided I must ride you till I break you.
'Cause Heather says I gots to go.
You're my last meal on death row.
Shut your mouth and lose them tighty-whitays!

Come on!
Tonight I'm yours.
I'm your dead girl walkin'!
Get on all fours.
Kiss this dead girl walkin'!
Let's go, you know the drill...
I'm hot and pissed and on the pill.
Bow down to the will
Of a dead girl walkin'!

And ya know, ya know, ya know,
It's 'cause you're beautiful.
You say you're numb inside ...
But i can't agree.
So the world's unfair. . .
Keep it locked out there.
In here it's beautiful. ..
Let's make this beautiful!

Full steam ahead!
Take this dead girl walkin'!
Let's break the bed!
Rock this dead girl walkin'!
No sleep tonight for you,
Better chug that Mountain Dew.
Get your ass in gear,
Make this whole town disappear.
Slap me! Pull my hair,
Touch me there and there and there,
But no more talking!
Love this dead girl walkin'!

The music and lyric builds with the sex, as the song rises to its orgasmic finish. First, as Veronica keeps singing the title phrase, JD’s vocals fall into the rhythm of their sex:
Whoa, oa, oa, oa!
Whoa! Whoa!
Hey! Hey!
Yeah! Yeah!
Whoa! Whoa!
Hey! Hey!
Wait! Wait!

And then they fall into sync with each other, and as they climax sexually, they also climax musically, singing a unison “Yeah” over and over, until a final held “Yeah” and a big musical finish, as they collapse on the bed.

This song returns for the show's climax in Act II. This time, “dead” is no longer a metaphor for social banishment; now it means DEAD. By this point in the show, we've become aware of Veronica's progression of culpability, from complete innocence at first to full complicity later on.

As in the earlier version of this song, so much plot happens during this reprise – Veronica makes a decision in the first verse, goes looking for J.D. during the chorus, then finds him and confronts him in the second verse, almost exactly the way the first incarnation of the song works. That's some economical writing.
I wanted someone strong who could protect me.
I let his anger fester and infect me.
His solution is a lie;
No one here deserves to die,
Except for me and the monster I created!
Yeah ... Yeah!

Heads up, J.D.!
I'm a dead girl walking!
Can't hide from me!
I'm a dead girl walking!
It's one more dance and then farewell,
Cheek-to-cheek in hell,
With a dead girl walking!

(to JD)
I wish your mom had been a little stronger.
I wish she'd stayed around a little longer.
I wish your dad were good;
I wish grownups understood;
I wish we'd met before
They convinced you life is war.
I wish you'd come with me…

And J.D. replies only, "I wish I had more TNT." We see now how fundamentally incompatible they are (even if they do complete each other's rhymes). And that leads directly to the climax of the show, this time a narrative climax, rather than a sexual one...

I continually marvel at the quality of writing in this show. It's such fun to watch it every night, to see new things all the time, to see new little moments the actors have found, and to watch audience after audience transfixed by our story, followed by a cheering, shouting, standing ovation after every show. What an experience this has been!

It reminds me a lot of the two times we produced Larry O'Keefe's Bat Boy. And our adventure isn't over yet...

Long Live the Musical!