If you haven’t seen the iconic 80s film ‘Heathers’ then you’re missing out on some infinitely iconic quotes that extend far beyond their source material. Now branching out from the big screen, these quotes now find themselves embedded in a musical that saw its off-Broadway debut in 2014 and currently has a home in the West End at Theatre Royal Haymarket.
Telling the dark yet strangely uplifting tale of Veronica Sawyer, Heathers follows her as she falls in with the wrong crowd in order to become popular and get through high school, and then somehow falls in with an even worse crowd in JD, the new kid who takes ‘bad boy’ to a whole new level. Suddenly three people are dead and Veronica is a little out of her depth. Despite the dark story, Heathers is full of upbeat pop tunes that soar through the auditorium with help from Carrie Hope Fletcher and Jamie Muscato, playing Veronica and JD respectively. The show has been developed since the original run in New York and has seen several new songs and changed dialogue, but the spirit has remained the same. It’s a musical of the Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen generation, appealing to young audiences who weren’t even alive when the original movie came out. The quippy one-liners and big musical numbers that show a high school life we all recognise and remember have the audience in stitches, but the emotional numbers do just as much to endear themselves to the hearts of theatregoers who are so invested in the show that they come in costume.
It’s easy to see the appeal of the production: well-choreographed dance numbers, a score that jumps between hauntingly beautiful and infectiously catchy, and dialogue that is just as memorable as that original movie. The cast is brimming with talent, with standouts in Sophie Isaacs, who brings a sassy and sweet Heather MacNamara to the stage, and T’Shan Williams, who steals the show with one of the new songs, ‘Never Shut Up Again’.
The staging of the show is best described as simple but effective. They make use of only a few multi-functional pieces that form suggestions of settings – school lunchrooms or cemeteries, which work well to frame the huge show without a huge budget, even if they do sometimes result in scene changes that take a little too long and are barely disguised with added dialogue or short song reprises. The lighting is best shown off at the moments where it gets to do the talking, spotlighting each of the three Heathers in their respective colours, or simulating a bomb explosion with bright strobes. The shadow of the smaller space the show had in their off-West End production a few months back is clear, but it manages to fill the Haymarket stage with minimal changes.
One of Heathers’ best qualities is the women leading the show. Despite an all-male creative team, the production itself features an all-female band and the majority of the principal roles are diverse and opinionated women. It might not be consciously feminist, but it’s a nice change from shows that tend to feature men in leading roles. Veronica is certainly a unique protagonist, but she has an enduring heart that endears her to the audience.
This production of the show isn’t sticking around for long, only booking for a 12-week run, so score a ticket while you can and bask in the stunning vocals of some accomplished West End actresses.