Note: This review is for the 2021 UK tour.
Based on the 1988 black comedy starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, Heathers the Musical has arrived at The Alexandra Theatre.
It might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder to be a somebody…
Directed by Andy Fickman and with Book, Music and Lyrics by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe, Heathers tells the story of Veronica Sawyer (Rebecca Wickes), an overlooked teen who attempts to make her journey through Westerberg High School more bearable by becoming associated with the ‘Heathers.’
The trio of Heathers – weak-willed tag-along Heather McNamara (Lizzy Parker), bulimic and churlish Heather Duke (Merryl Ansah), and their “mythic bitch” leader Heather Chandler (Maddison Firth) rule the school, stomping around in their red, green and yellow co-ordinated outfits. They are joined by cruel jocks Kurt Kelley (Liam Doyle) and Ram Sweeney (Rory Phelan), who take pleasure in intimidating and bullying their peers.
Veronica’s relationships change as her popularity grows, abandoning her unpopular best friend Martha in favour of the Heathers. When she meets enigmatic and disturbed Jason ‘J.D.’ Dean and falls in love, she is torn as her life and the lives of her high school classmates are changed forever…
The show is made up of a fun, talented and energetic cast of performers, many of them who have duel roles. Rebecca Wickes is wonderful in the lead role of Veronica, commanding the stage with an indelible presence, boundless energy and plenty of chemistry with Simon Gordon’s J.D., who transitions from cool to creepy as the show progresses.
The Heathers are the Queen Bees and are performed brilliantly, with Maddison Firth’s Heather being loud, brash, demanding and the ultimate stereotype of the mean girl, Merryl Ansah’s bitchy and petty Heather and Lizzy Parker’s Heather who desperately wants to be accepted working well as a trio and individually. Doyle and Phelan as Kurt and Ram also have great chemistry, being strangely likeable and providing many of the comic moments throughout the show.
The standout vocals came from Mhairi Angus in her professional Musical Theatre debut as Veronica’s best friend Martha Dunnstock. I was disappointed that she only had one song (Kindergarten Boyfriend), which was sensitively and beautifully performed.
The sets and costumes are bright and colourful, and the show is fun and fast-paced. It’s a great watch, if you remove the connection to the original movie. The dark themes are still there – suicide, sexual assault, bullying, school shootings and homosexuality – and there were a few moments that were uncomfortable to watch (with audible gasps from the audience), but many of the songs were very upbeat and catchy which didn’t seem suitable for the story nor the decade in which it was set. Iconic lines of dialogue still feature – “f*ck me with a chainsaw” being the most notable – but it has been toned down for a theatre audience.
Heathers the Musical is on stage at the Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 25th September, and the UK tour continues until December 2021. To purchase your tickets, visit here.
Disclaimer: The Bloke and I were given complimentary tickets to the show but were under no obligation to provide a positive review.