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BWW Review: HEATHERS THE MUSICAL, The Other Palace

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The new production of the teen musical is running until February 2022

BWW Review: HEATHERS THE MUSICAL, The Other Palace

BWW Review: HEATHERS THE MUSICAL, The Other Palace As the first show out of the gate at The Other Palace since the pandemic, and the first show housed there since the venue was bought by Bill Kenwright, Heathers the Musical has a lot of attention to shoulder. Not only has it returned to its original home but it's also got a brand new cast to boot - and reader...they are on fire.

But before we get into that, let's set the scene. Heathers the Musical is a stage adaptation of the 1989 cult movie classic, which on the face of it presents as an upbeat teen coming-of-age story but in reality is a dark comedy that delves into some pretty heavy subject matter. Our protagonist, the outcast Veronica Sawyer, becomes sucked into the vapid clique of the three Heathers - led by Queen Bee Heather Chandler - in a bid to get through high school unscathed, but it's her dalliance with the brooding J.D. that proves to be the toxic catalyst for a series of unexpected events.

Produced by Paul Taylor-Mills and Kenwright, this production is bursting at the seams with authentic and engaging performances from its cast; from the more experienced members to the recently graduated, you can feel that every single person on that stage is giving it everything they have. And does this effort pay off? Happily, yes.

Ailsa Davidson leads the cast as the quirky Veronica Sawyer with a natural charisma and enigmatic quality that's really compelling to watch. When you couple that with her palpable chemistry with the excellent Freddie King as J.D., the end result is a tremendous performance. They both deliver really strong vocals too. One of Davidson's numbers got a mid-show standing ovation - and I'm positive it won't be the last time that happens.

As always, it feels unjust to highlight and namecheck the leads without acknowledging the skills and efforts of the rest of the cast. With the likes of Lizzie Bea (Hairspray) and Kieran Brown (Phantom of the Opera) gracing the ensemble with their experience and talent, a lofty benchmark is set, and every single person brings their A-game.

I won't be the first person to highlight the uncomfortable subject matter that this show tackles, and I found it difficult to oblige with laughter at the relevant cues on several occasions. Whilst I understand the desire to stay true to the source material, I think that director Andy Fickman could have rowed back slightly on cultivating comedy from scenes that depict bulimia or the threat of sexual assault. I'd even go so far as to say that trigger warnings might be prudent. When adapting material from a less progressive time, how do we draw the line between authenticity and sensitivity? It's not something I know the answer to, but I think the balance isn't quite right here.

The score by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O'Keefe must surely invite obvious comparisons to Legally Blonde - and I mean that with my highest compliments. Almost every song has an infectious hook and unmatched energy underpinning some genuinely beautiful melodies. It's unusual for me to encounter a new score where every song is a standout, but Heathers manages to achieve this.

There's no doubt that Heathers the Musical is in excellent shape, delivering some unexpected narrative twists, great music and dedicated performances. Those heading to The Other Palace expecting a typical teen musical with light-hearted fare will be in for a shock. And having a disruptor like that as part of our theatrical landscape is definitely a welcome addition.

Heathers is running at The Other Palace until 20 February, 2022 - book tickets here


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