Gaining somewhat of a cult status, HEATHERS THE MUSICAL takes the razor-sharp darkness of the original film and adds an extravaganza of camp and frothy bitchiness
Following two record-breaking seasons in London’s West End, HEATHERS THE MUSICAL finally embarks on its first national tour, with a week-long run at Manchester’s Palace Theatre.
Based on the 1988 film of the same name starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, HEATHERS THE MUSICAL tells the story of 17-year-old Veronica Sawyer, who attends Westerberg High School in Ohio.
Unexpectedly taken under the wings of the three beautiful and impossibly cruel trio of girls named Heather, Veronica’s dreams of popularity finally start to come true.
But when mysterious teen Jason ‘J.D’ Dean arrives, Veronica embarks on a dark and dangerous path, getting lost in a tangled web of lies.
Gaining somewhat of a cult status for the blackness of its comedy, HEATHERS THE MUSICAL takes the razor-sharp darkness of the original film and adds an extravaganza of camp and frothy bitchiness.
Director Andy Fickman makes most of David Shield’s colourful set and costume design, along with Ben Cracknell’s inventive lighting to enhance the stereotyped characters and their world to ridiculously overblown levels that suit the atmosphere of the show.
Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe’s rocky musical score bounces with energy throughout, with intelligent and witty lyrics in numbers like CANDY STORE and DEAD GIRL WALKING. Gary Lloyd’s choreography is also slick throughout, with some inspired ensemble numbers, such as BIG FUN and MY DEAD GAY SON.
Rebecca Wickes is flawless as tortured teen Veronica, bringing youthful energy and innocence to the role. Vocally, she steals the show with her rendition of I SAY NO but is also a brilliant comic actor, her cartoon-like reactions and expressions adding to the performance in the best possible way.
Elsewhere, Simon Gordon makes for a perfect JD, the troubled teen with a complicated backstory, expertly navigating his way through his character’s emotions.
Mhairi Angus also deserves a mention as Veronica’s forgotten friend, Martha Dunnstock, for her rendition of the innocently comedic KINDERGARTEN BOYFRIEND.
But this musical is all about the Heathers, and the trio of queen bees played by Maddison Firth, Merryl Ansah and Lizzy Parker, do not disappoint.
Dressed in colour coded tartan skirts and knee-length socks, with croquet mallets in hand, the trio brings out both the comedy – and the cruelness – of the role, Firth, in particular, standing out, for her comical performance of THE ME INSIDE OF ME.
Yet, for all its sassiness and flair, HEATHERS THE MUSICAL isn’t without its flaws. As the plot takes a dark and sinister turn in the second act, the musical struggles to balance pace and style.
The bright, upbeat score and the colourful design jars slightly with the story’s contents, and the show would benefit from cutting a couple of musical numbers that seem to fill time rather than serve the story.
It’d also be remiss not to acknowledge its questionable approach to discussing adult topics. Heavy themes of teenage suicide, bulimia, depression, sexual assault and homophobia feel sloppily handled at times, making HEATHERS THE MUSICAL somewhat of a marmite show – a show which some will love and others will hate.
That said, there is enough kitsch energy to carry this unashamedly loud and brash production through and overall, HEATHERS THE MUSICAL makes for a camp and hilarious tribute to the beloved film.
HEATHERS THE MUSICAL runs at the Palace Theatre Manchester until 9 October 2021
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.