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Review: HEATHERS THE MUSICAL, Edinburgh Playhouse

The production runs is part of a UK Tour

Review: HEATHERS THE MUSICAL, Edinburgh Playhouse Review: HEATHERS THE MUSICAL, Edinburgh Playhouse

Heathers The Musical is a dark comedy, with the emphasis on the dark, making the comedy at times uncomfortable. It's horror story in bold colours and peppy songs, with a lot of death and little character redemption. Yet it is surprising how entertaining and enjoyable a show can be with a story so unlikeable.

It's a very unique genre for musical theatre, especially when tied up in a brightly hued scrunchie. If you go into the show with no concept of the film or musical, it comes as quite a shock. After seeing it for the first time it is easy to see why people would return, as on a second viewing you would know the ride you were getting yourself into.

Musicals based on films have become the norm of the theatre scene. They can either elevate the content which they have been given or simply re-create what people love with no imaginative input. Heathers is more in the former camp: it feels like it could be a standalone production, regardless of the 1988 film. Unlike other high school musicals or 80s films turned into shows, this does not rely on a wink-to-the-audience staging. It is grounded and gritty, never delving into parody even when portraying out-there humour.

Nevertheless, it still has to follow the film's narrative. And this is where Heathers stumbles in its stilettos by rushing through many serious topics such as mental health, childhood trauma, homophobia and suicide without really dealing with them. The most disturbing being the vague, confusing date rape scene. A topic so serious and prevalent in the US school system that it deserves more development and focus if being mentioned.

The show could be slightly excused for not completing each complex emotional jigsaw it starts, as it is a piece of entertainment, but darkness and character pain are the foundations and drive of the entire show.

However, a very talented cast is led by Rebecca Wickes who takes command as outsider Veronica, giving a killer performance and powerful vocals. Simon Gordon is eerily slick as the new guy in town JD. Both leads and and the ensemble work together impressively.

Heathers' music is pretty samey, with some standouts songs such as "Dead Girl Walking" and "Seventeen". However, the similarity makes it clear how the recording of the score would become so popular as it plays like a teen-angst pop album. Especially in the second half where the volume is cranked up to 11 like an 80s jock playing their latest cassette on full blast. It might be the loudness, word count per song or wavering diction but chunks of lyrics are unclear throughout. Which is unhelpful for a story-driven show.

David Shields' sharp, slick, authentic costumes and impressive set design and Ben Cracknell's lighting skills are the unsung stars of this show. Together, they create a spectaclar visual package.

Heathers The Musical on paper should not be as enjoyable as it is. The young vibrant cast and visuals bring together a good show that has a lot of life, splattered with a lot of death. Yet the mishmash of music, talking points and overall vibe prevent the show from hitting its target.

Heathers The Musical runs at Edinburgh Playhouse until 11 December, then continues on a UK tour and is currently playing the West End.



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