WORTH A LOOK?: ****1/2
WHEN?: Matinee Wednesday 28 July 2021, booking to 11 September 2021
RUNTIME: 150 minutes (with a 20-minute interval)
We were at a preview of this production at the Other Palace over 3 years ago and we’re back because we’ve enjoyed its 2 new leads in Bat Out Of Hell (Dominion, Christina Bennington) and & Juliet (Shaftesbury Theatre, Jordan Luke Gage).
- Read on for reasons including how the vociferous audience is so powerful it is like having an extra Heather onstage
Original Veronica Sawyer Carrie Hope Fletcher is preparing to open in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella across town at the Gillian Lynne Theatre and Bennington’s (pictured above) performance underlines what is essentially the rock nature of the score with an explosive and impressive vocal.
She shares a real chemistry with Gage, who also appeared in Bat Out Of Hell, and we enjoyed how well sung his numbers were but also how easily pronounced, no difficulties in understanding what he was saying, and the real menace he brought to the character of JD.
Heathers is set in an Ohio high school in September 1989 and tells the story of Sawyer and her attempts to infiltrate the female Heathers clique who rule the school and her love for bad boy JD who we later learn comes from a broken home with a father who is a demolition expert and a mother who died in a suspicious explosion.
What was interesting about the terrific 1989 film starring Winona Ryder is that it was such a dark, hip look at subjects like mental health, suicide and gun control which have become more pronounced in the 30 years which have followed in US schools.
Sawyer allows her infatuation with JD to blind her to his murderous ways as she confronts lead Heather (played memorably by Jodie Steele who starred in that original preview) and bullying jocks Kurt and Ram (Ross Harmon and Joaquin Pedro Valdes, who spend much of the show only in their underpants as ghosts).
The Heathers are rounded out by new recruits Bobbie Little and Frances Mayli McCann who have memorable solo numbers which also show their strength in depth as well as giving them character arcs of their own.
We weren’t prepared for the audience’s cheers for the Heathers as they arrive on stage in an iconic pose because surely they’re the villains of the piece? This production’s fine supporting cast gets some of the best material and we particularly enjoyed Kurt and Ram’s fathers’ side-splitting yet beautiful response to their sons’ apparent suicide in My Dead Gay Son.
Sawyer’s best friend Martha is given life by Madison Swan and her touching My Kindergarten Boyfriend stands out for its sensitivity. Lauren Ward was nominated for an Olivier for Dear Evan Hansen and here does the splits and interrogates the audience while urging us all to overcome our troubles in Shine A Light.
The strength of the piece is that it offers a female-led story about choosing the wrong path, realising the mistake and memorably during newest song I Say No, doing your utmost to put things right.
If you’re looking for a brilliant musical reflecting on school life to lose yourself in with a wildly enthusiastic audience whipped up in to a frenzy by a top-notch cast, this could well be the show for you.
- Picture via Facebook by Pamela Raith courtesy Heathers The Musical Tickets Heathers is also touring the UK Details
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