'Heathers: The Musical' Director on the Iconic Movie Line Winona Ryder Requested They Add to Show

Andy Fickman reveals to PEOPLE what "the most protected" line of dialogue is in Heathers: The Musical, after Winona Ryder requested it be added early on

Over 30 years later, Winona Ryder is still the red-scrunchie-sporting queen of Westerberg High.

The actress, who played the lead role of Veronica Sawyer in 1989's dark teen cult classic Heathers, saw an early production of Heathers: The Musical back in Los Angeles, before it hit the stage Off-Broadway in 2014 (and later on London's West End).

According to the show's longtime director Andy Fickman, who chatted with PEOPLE ahead of the London version's debut on The Roku Channel Friday, "We were just on the edge of our seats to make sure she liked it."

Fickman tells PEOPLE that Ryder, now 50, was "so supportive" of the show, with just one critique: "She said, 'But you cut my favorite line in the movie about patronizing bunny rabbits.' "

In the film, Ryder's Veronica tells her parents, "All we want is to be treated like human beings, not to be experimented on like guinea pigs or patronized like bunny rabbits" — leading her father (played by William Cort) to respond, offended, "I don't patronize bunny rabbits."

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Heathers: The Musical Director on the Iconic Movie Line Winona Ryder Requested They Add to Show
Andy Fickman (L); Winona Ryder in Heathers (1989). courtesy andy fickman, shutterstock

In the musical, the line is said by guidance counselor Ms. Fleming (Vicki Lee Taylor in the London production streaming on The Roku Channel).

According to Fickman, the show's production team — including Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy, who co-wrote the music, lyrics and book — "all looked at each other, and we're like, 'Okay, that will never happen again.' And the next day, Kevin put it in."

Now, "It's the most protected line in the show," Fickman tells PEOPLE. "It'll never get cut."

It was also important to Fickman to be involved "from the get-go" with the team behind the original movie, he says, as "a massive fan" of Heathers himself.

"Having [writer] Dan Waters and [director] Michael Lehmann and [producer] Denise De Novi linked in from the get-go was very important. Because I think that's what the connecting tissue was," he says.

And not only that, but several other original cast members aside from Ryder have shown their support and come to see the musical in person over the years, including Christian Slater.

"Christian went onstage Off Broadway, and he [put on his character J.D.'s signature] trench coat," Fickman recalls. "And Lisanne Falk, the original [Heather McNamara], she lives in the U.K. and is our fairy godmother for the production and has been with that for every version of the show she has been there. And it's really lovely to have that happen."

"The original Martha [Carrie Lynn] came and brought us a cake," he adds. "We never got anything that felt pushback. I think because we embraced the movie from the very beginning."

Heathers follows wallflower Veronica Sawyer, who is taken under the wing of the popular yet acid-hearted Heather Chandler (played by the late Kim Walker in the movie) and her two minions: Heather Duke (Shannen Doherty) and Heather McNamara (Falk, now 57).

Veronica soon meets the mysterious Jason "J.D." Dean (Slater, now 53), who gives her a fresh perspective on popularity — with deadly consequences.

Shannen Doherty
From left: Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker and Winona Ryder in Heathers (1989). New World Pictures/Getty

Heathers: The Musical didn't hit Off-Broadway until 2014, but began as a concept almost 10 years earlier, according to Fickman — and was originally led by Kristen Bell.

Barrett Wilbert Weed soon slipped into Veronica'a blue blazer in Los Angeles and Off-Broadway, followed by Carrie Hope Fletcher originating the role on London's Off-West End before performing in the West End production. The show has since enjoyed multiple London revivals and a U.K. tour, inspiring countless local productions and even being featured on a 2019 episode of Riverdale.

The London version streaming Friday on The Roku Channel stars Ailsa Davidson as Veronica, who was recently succeeded by Erin Caldwell earlier this month. Simon Gordon plays J.D. opposite Davidson, with a supporting cast that also includes Maddison Firth as Heather Chandler.

Fickman — who also directed films like 2006's She's the Man, 2007's The Game Plan and 2019's Playing with Fire — said he was excited about helming Heathers: The Musical in part because it allowed him "to blend my love of all my different mediums."

And when it came to filming the show for television, "I wanted the camera to be the best seat in the house. And so every decision was based on, 'How do we do that?' " he tells PEOPLE.

heathers the musical
Heathers: The Musical. Roku Channel

RELATED GALLERY: The Heathers Cast: Where Are They Now?

As for whether the show will ever return to the U.S. in an official tour capacity, Fickman says, "It's on our to-do list."

"I would love to see Heathers get out, from our professional side, and see the world," the director adds. "And no director of musicals doesn't dream of someday how wonderful it would be to get back to New York again. So all of that, I think, is on the wish-list table for us."

And while the stage production is its own animal, "For people who love the movie, that they can get something out of the musical," Fickman says.

"If people don't know the movie, hopefully they'll go back and rediscover it," he adds. "But we just want Heathers fans."

Heathers: The Musical is streaming Friday on The Roku Channel.

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