You may recognize her name from The Globe and Mail article calling her “One to Watch” or as last summer’s NOW Magazine cover for The Toronto Fringe Festival. You may have seen her at the Musical Stage Company’s post-show cabarets or karaoke nights, or maybe right here at Hart House Theatre in the Canadian premiere of both Reefer Madness The Musical and High Fidelity.

Either way, one thing is certain: Jennifer Walls has worn many hats throughout her unconventional career as a performer. From singing to producing, voice acting, teaching, creating multiple critically acclaimed shows, hosting SINGular Sensation at Statlers every Monday evening and to being a Lady Gaga impersonator, Jennifer seems to have done it all—or so you would assume. Yet there are still a few things she wants to cross off her list, like directing a major musical.

The timing couldn’t be better as she is slated to direct Heathers: The Musical this September at Hart House Theatre.“ Hart House to this day is one of the most memorable, special, meaningful theatre experiences I’ve had. It was my first show in Toronto and it was a family,” says Jennifer. 

Her first lead role in a musical was in Reefer Madness the Musical, which was written by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney and had its Canadian premiere at Hart House Theatre. Fresh out of school, Jennifer was at the time working at Malabar, a popular costume, makeup and dancewear store. She’d finish at 6 pm, then run to the theatre for rehearsal.

“It was the best thing about my life and it’s exciting to think I have the opportunity to give someone an experience like that, one that is meaningful and special,” says Jennifer.

“I felt like I belonged, felt like I was in the right place. It was very confidence-building and self-esteem building to have people I looked up to take a chance on me.” She adds that one of the biggest things she learned working on the show at the ripe age of twenty-one was to take chances. 

“It taught me that it’s okay to not know anything and that you are always learning.” 

This is why she is happy to have her directorial debut at Hart House Theatre: “Hart House Theatre is a place to learn. The actors will be learning, I’ll be learning and I have as much to learn as anyone else, which is why this is the perfect place.”

The play she’ll be directing, Heathers: The Musical, is based on the iconic film of the same name starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. It tells the tale of mean girls and murderous vengeance between outcasts and the popular in-crowd. With a twisted, pitch-black sense of humor and a rockin’ soundtrack, this musical explores some of today’s societal challenges with the backdrop of a 1980s high school social scene.

A long-time fan of both cult movies and rock music, Jennifer plans, along with Music Director Giustin MacLean, to “dirty it up a bit and make it a bit more rock.” However, her reasons to bring Heathers: The Musical to the Hart House stage extend beyond her personal tastes. The theme, she believes, is not only empowering but also appropriate to what world we live in. “It makes a statement…I think it’s terrible that it’s still so relevant, that we haven’t come any further, we’ve almost come full circle and we are still dealing with the same stuff… It’s going to make people think.”

What does it feel like to direct for the first time? Excited and scared, says Jennifer. But she’s quick to credit her many friends for their support, as well a mini boot camp she’s taking at Theatre Drayton, where she will assistant direct David Rogers in Canada 151: Better Late Than Sorry. She’s particularly happy to have her directorial debut at Hart House Theatre: “I don’t know what it is about Hart House Theatre, but they have this ability to bring together a really good group of people that are all like-minded. It has always been a consistently good experience and they always gather people who are there for the right reasons”.

Once Heathers: The Musical opens on September 21, Jennifer can add the title of director to her long list of credits. Is there anything left that Jennifer still wants to tackle?

“I’m really happy where I’m at, but I would like to perform in a large musical in Toronto because most of the work I do is out of town…I’d love to do a big show.”

One thing is clear, with her determination and hard work, Jennifer has proven that she’s an artist to keep tabs on—clearly “One to Watch.”