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Heathers The Musical
25th July 2023 - 29th July 2023
Greetings and salutations!
Following two smash hit West End seasons, a record-breaking run at The Other Palace and winning the WhatsOnStage award for BEST NEW MUSICAL, Heathers The Musical, the black comedy rock musical based on the eponymous 1988 film, embarks on a new national tour.
Westerberg High’s Veronica Sawyer is just another nobody dreaming of a better day. But when she joins the beautiful and impossibly cruel Heathers and her dreams of popularity may finally come true, mysterious teen rebel JD teaches her that it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder being a somebody.
Age Advisory: 14+
This production contains haze, loud noises including gunshots, flashing lights and strobe, strong language and mature themes including murder, suicide, sexual violence and references to eating disorders.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including interval)
Photo credit: Pamela Raith
The View From The Stalls - Pete Phillips
Colourful, lively and loud - all you need from a musical
Heathers, a black comedy teen drama starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater was released back in 1989. Although considered a box office flop, it has become something of a cult movie over the years.
The stage version turns that story into a musical and adds an extra twist whilst retaining themes which, if anything, are more appropriate and poignant in this era than they were decades ago. There are some references which are specifically of that time ("Hands across America" anyone?), a great musical score and a very funny slow-motion fight sequence involving a number cast members.
Heathers is a group of three teenagers who share that first name - Chandler, Duke and McNamara, dressed in red, green and yellow - though the one to be feared is Heather Chandler, given the hold she has over the other two. The arrival of Veronica Sawyer to Westerberg High risks changing that dynamic as, in order to be accepted, Veronica feels that she needs the Heathers on her side, eventually becoming the "blue" member of that little gang. Supporting her is the somewhat mysterious J.D., a man in a black cloak who seems to have the ability to ensure that Veronica gets what she wants or at least what she thinks she wants. And he has the means and the history to do some rather nasty things, whilst maintaining his mystique by quoting Baudelaire at her. This somewhat unlikely scenario does not end well for some of the cast - there are multiple deaths - with the plot touching heavily on school bullying, rampant gun use, teenage suicide and, something not in the film, a gay relationship between the two male bullies, Kurt and Ram (Alex Woodward and Morgan Jackson) - who then spend most of the time in their underpants and socks and obviously enjoying it!.
Turning the film into a musical definitely lightens the more serious elements and the audience clearly loved the songs, giving each one a tremendous reception. Of particular note are the songs "Beautiful", "Freeze your brain" and "My dead gay son" (the latter being a bit of a giveaway, but even then there is a surprise in store at the end!). The three main leads - Jenna Innes, Jacob Fowler and Verity Thompson) all have excellent voices which carry the songs well (Fowler getting most of the quieter songs), as indeed does Kingsley Morton as the put-upon Martha Dunnstock when she sings a quiet lament. Amusingly, other cast members are simply billed as "Preppy stud", "Beleaguered geek", "Hipster dork" and "Stoner chick" but whether performing singly or together, the ensemble cast are obviously enjoying bringing this all-American story to the British audience. And the audience responded in kind.
The songs are great, the music is played by a live band (under the stage), the set and costumes are very colourful, the plot is fast moving and as well as giving the audience a great night out, also leaves them to ponder some of the more serious issues raised in this version of the cult movie.
Just as impressive was the fact that the show invoked something not seen for a while at the theatre - the entire Malvern audience up on their feet applauding at the end in an extended standing ovation, something which must have really gratifying for this largely young cast.
Curtain Call Reviews
It’s safe to say that Heathers The Musical has cemented itself into musical theatre history like no other show, with a stream of fans arriving at venues dressed as the infamous Heathers and protagonist Veronica Sawyer. This show is full of humour, but also deals with some pretty hard-hitting subjects such as suicide, date rape and bullying.
The action starts at Westerberg High School, and we meet Veronica Sawyer (Jenna Innes) as she starts another diary entry centring around her time at school. Innes was every inch the perfect Veronica, with an outstanding voice especially during ‘I Say No’, which made me audibly gasp by the end! The passion and storytelling she is able to achieve during her performance makes for a fantastic evening. The lighting changes, the mood changes and we are introduced to the Heathers. Heather Chandler (Verity Thompson), Heather Duke (Elise Zavou) and Heather Macnamara (Billie Bowman) are thrust into ‘god-like’ status with their peers and Veronica wants nothing more to be like them.
The arrival of the Heathers is always a real moment especially with the inventive lighting by Ben Cracknell, with each Heather having a spotlight matching their outfit. Thompson as ‘mythic bitch’ Heather Chandler is delicious in her evil streak and her portrayal of this role was strong and confident. Vocally outstanding during ‘Candy Store’, you definitely love to hate her. Zavou and Bowman completed the trio with slightly softer sides, but again there were some stand out vocal performances by both.
We are introduced to Jason ‘J.D.’ Dean played superbly by Jacob Fowler. I have seen Heathers a few times now and have to say that Fowler was a complete vision in his characterisation of the psychopathic, unhinged teen. Every movement was calculated, with the odd twitch of his head adding to the unease of his persona. Again, vocally Fowler shone during many moments, especially ‘Freeze Your Brain’ and duet ‘Seventeen’ performed with Innes. The chemistry between the pair was believable, a lustful meeting, to a complete change of emotion between the two really permeated from the stage.
As mentioned, this show deals with many hard-hitting subjects, so the humorous moments are welcome. High School jocks Kurt Kelly (Liam Dean) and Ram Sweeney (Morgan Jackson) are the perfect tonic for the more comedic moments. Without a brain cell between them, they portray an air of seniority within the school hall but fall way short. Dean and Jackson worked so well together and had a great connection.
We also meet Martha Dunnstock (Kingsley Morton), best friend of Veronica, who is somewhat cast aside once the Heathers take Veronica under their wing. Morton plays Martha with a complete innocence and is a loveable character, just trying to make her way through school being the underdog. Morton was able to provide a very strong vocal during ‘Kindergarten Boyfriend’, a real goosebump moment.
If you’ve ever seen any of the productions of Heathers, you will know the story, but in short Veronica and J. D. fall in love and anyone that upsets Veronica falls foul to J. D.’s murderous ways. Veronica finally wakes up realising the sort of person he is and takes matters into her own hands with an explosive ending….quite literally!
With a seemingly permanent place in London, at The Other Palace and with many successful UK Tours, Heathers remains to be a firm favourite with audiences across the country. With a fantastic array of songs written by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe the show continues to go from strength to strength and the current UK touring cast are all superb.
Heathers The Musical is a coming of age story full of teenage angst, but it really is BIG FUN!
Fairy Powered Productions - Courie Amado Juneau
Heathers The Musical is the award winning stage adaptation of the cult 1988 film “Heathers”. I didn’t know the film but was intrigued by the brief synopsis I had seen and I was surrounded by people who had loved and were raving about it – so expectations were high. I was not disappointed.
Although the name of the work is Heathers it is really Veronica (who is desperate to join the Heathers group to gain some popularity) who is the real star. Jenna Innes brought amazing range to the role giving us tenderness, fear, anger, vulnerability, a warrior spirit in the face of spiralling events and much more. Her singing voice was gorgeous and I found her acting utterly compelling as she made this quirky leading role very believable. Every inch a star in the making.
Jacob Fowler, as lead male Jason “J.D.” Dean, was equally charismatic in a poetic reading. I loved his introduction with the comical slow motion fight scene which justified his place on the stage alone – wonderful direction from Andy Fickman in evidence.
The two jocks (think American football, not Scotland) – Kurt (Alex Woodward) and Ram (Morgan Jackson) were the most obvious comedy elements (though there is much comedy throughout for all the cast). They worked exceptionally well together, providing many laugh out loud (and cringeworthy) moments. As did the actors playing their fathers: Jay Bryce (Kurt’s dad) and Conor McFarlane (Ram’s) were hilarious, particularly in the song “My Dead Gay Son” – my favourite number of the entire piece. I would happily vote for a spin off show of the dad’s further adventures.
The entire cast displayed a rambunctious spirit and all deserve much praise. I was especially taken with Billie Bowman’s Heather McNamara; she brought a refreshing, youthful exuberance that was infectious. Kingsley Morton playing Martha Dunnstock was another pivotal character that was sensitively wrought.
The music is very 80’s influenced (to my ears) giving a Buffy meets High School Musical feel. It’s an extremely catchy score, supported by lyrics that intelligently propel the story along as well as being stand alone pieces, many of which are very inspirational.
The set was a masterclass in how to produce maximum effect with limited stage real estate. A balcony, a screen, some movable pieces that double as several things. The costumes were exactly what you would expect from 17 year old fashionistas and were a feast for the eyes. Very inventive stuff from David Shields (Set and Costume Designer).
What I was most impressed with was that the writers (Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe) managed to weave a rather uplifting musical out of some very dark, perhaps unpromising subject matter. The really clever part was juxtaposing the darkest of elements with the lightest, giving us plenty of emotion as well as some much needed light relief.
At the finale the audience were on their feet cheering loudly in vociferous support. And rightly so, for this is a superb show with amazing music, fantastic singing and dance routines… It really has everything. Most of all, it’s a whole lot of fun! If you loved SiX you will love this. Get yourself down to Malvern Theatre and mingle with the in-crowd. You won’t regret it.