Following a sold-out run at The Other Palace earlier this year, there’s been a lot of hype surrounding Heathers the Musical, with a strong fandom out in force and social media buzzing with (mostly) glowing comments. Based on the cult 1988 film written by Daniel Waters and starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, Heathers is a dark and entertaining tale of teenage angst, love and quest for popularity and arrives at its new home at the Theatre Royal Haymarket with high expectations all round.
For many teenagers high school is a time of angst and self-doubt and that’s certainly no different for Veronica Sawyer (Carrie Hope Fletcher), a teenage nobody who desperately dreams of ditching the bullies and fitting in at Westerberg High. Thanks to her knack of forging hall passes she’s soon taken in by three of the most popular (and cruellest) girls in school, The Heathers, although she finds out that popularity is not all it’s cracked up to be. She meets new boy in town, Jason ‘J.D.’ Dean, unaware that her relationship with the outcast will have grave consequences for everyone.
Directed by Andy Fickman, Heathers is a dark musical packed full of humour and memorable numbers, with impressive choreography by Gary Lloyd, a versatile set (designed by David Shields) and enviable costumes to whisk you straight back to the 80s.
While there is a realism in the show’s portrayal of teenage desperation for popularity, there are moments when it all feels deeply unsettling. The narrative brushes with sensitive topics including teenage suicide, sexual assault and high school killings that sit awkwardly when contrasted with the real-life tragedy of such events.
Fletcher lives up to expectations, delivering a misguided Veronica who is endearing yet flawed. Her performance is strong throughout in both acting and song, especially when she belts out Dead Girl Walking. Equally impressive is Jamie Muscato as the dry-humoured, troubled psychopath J.D, and the pair have great chemistry, as evidenced during their duet Seventeen. They’re both supported by a strong cast including Jodie Steele, T’Shan Williams and Sophie Isaacs as Heathers Chandler, Duke and McNamara respectively. Despite the cruelness of their characters, the trio are given one of the show’s catchiest songs, Candy Store. There is memorable work too from Jenny O’Leary as Martha, Veronica’s kind-hearted childhood best friend, with her sweetly sung number Kindergarten Boyfriend sure to tug at heart strings.
Despite its flaws, this is a technically well delivered show that is likely to be popular amongst die-hard fans and newcomers alike.
This review was originally written for Jonathan Baz. To read the original, click here.