Heathers The Musical – Bord Gais Energy Theatre – Review
25 April – 06 May 2023 – HEATHERS THE MUSICAL – Produced by Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills
Age recommendation 14+
Heathers is the darker-than-dark teen movie from the late-80s that helped launch the career of Winona Ryder, Shannen Doherty and Christian Slater. It is the story of the ruling class in Westerburg High School in Sherwood, Ohio. Three girls, all called Heather, are in charge of the teen landscape, deciding who is cool and whose life is made a living hell. All is stable in their world until the arrival of Jason ‘J.D.’ Dean to the school, who sets out to change things. Our main protagonist is Veronica Sawyer, a young girl just trying to get through high school who has fallen under the spell of the Heathers. She falls for JD but soon discovers that he’s more dangerous than she initially suspected!
While the film is not the most obvious candidate for conversion to a musical, there is a history of dark musicals, with Sweeney Todd being just one example. While a number of characters die on stage, they return immediately to sing about their plight, so it would be difficult to be too cut up about it! The musical changes a number of aspects of the original film, such as the social standing of the main character, who is briefly a misfit before a makeover elevates her station in life! There are a number of other small alterations but the main storyline remains intact from the original.
Judging from the reaction of the crowd last night, this musical has something of a following, with howls of anticipation before it even began. A number of audience members were dressed up as Heathers, giving it a ‘Rocky Horror Show’ like experience, which adds to the atmosphere.
The songs work well, and the cast was in fine voice, belting out a variety of unusual lyrics like “a sword fight in her mouth” (yes, that means what you think it means). The first act is very strong, as we realise just how damaged J.D. really is. After the interval, things get more frantic and sadly less interesting, as we move towards the final dramatic scenes.
The young cast does a good job, with Jenna Innes playing Veronica Sawyer, our main protagonist who tries to stop what she has set in motion. Jacob Fowler is a little too clean-cut for the character of Jason “JD” Dean, more leading man than Goth kid, but he has an impressive voice and a touch of swagger. Verity Thompson plays the Queen of the Heathers, Heather Chandler and she is appropriately vicious. There are a number of impressive dance sequences where all three Heathers move like show ponies, strutting their way around the stage!
The Book, Music and Score were written by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe. Laurence O’Keefe previously worked on Legally Blonde: The Musical along with Bat Boy: The Musical. It’s a solid musical score that will be suitable for all the family, even if the lyrics aren’t!
For fans of the film, this is an unusual way to relive the experience, but judging from last night, there is a whole new generation of fans. The musical keeps the premise and many of the best lines from the film, while adding the musical element. It pokes fun at some unusual places, such as our treatment of bullying, suicide, and violence in schools. It is an irreverent and playful piece that should suit fans of the darker edge of musical theatre!
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