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BWW Review: HEATHERS THE MUSICAL, Theatre Royal Haymarket


The high-school musical returns to the West End with a bang

Heathers The Musical

Heathers The MusicalBefore Clueless or Mean Girls came Heathers, a cult 1988 film satirising the explosive consequences of painful social pressures in an American high school. Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy's award-winning musical version now bounces back into the West End for a 12-week run with a brand new vigour.

The world of Heathers The Musical is a savage place. Desperate to fit in at high school, Veronica joins the Heathers, a trio of cool girls intent on belittling her as much as possible. Veronica then meets JD, a disturbed outsider who persuades her to murder her classmates and make it look like suicide, thereby exposing the cruelty and bigotry in the school's society.

It might be the return of full theatres, but there was a fizz and energy in the almost entirely new cast that was palpable. Christina Bennington is excellent in the role of Veronica, who is torn between the Heathers, JD, and her conscience. Her vocals are belting and she also carries the peppy and comic acting very well. Her solo of "I Said No" is particularly powerful, exploiting the slightly raspy, rocky edge to her voice to perfection.

Jordan Luke Gage is well-cast as the psychotic JD. You can sense his dysfunctional mind from the outset and Gage shows this mental breakdown progressing throughout the show. The chemistry between him and Bennington is also very convincing.

Jodie Steele returns as Heather Chandler and has a ball with the role of ice queen dipped in acid. Frances Mayli McCann is both hilariously vacuous and vulnerable as Heather McNamara and Bobbie Little is a snarling ball of aggression as Heather Duke. All have great voices, particularly shown in their harmonies.

There is brilliant support from the rest of the cast, particularly Lauren Ward as the hippy, dippy Ms. Fleming, who nearly takes the roof off with her hysterical rendition of "Shine a Light".

The story itself lags a little in the second act, but the ensemble is bouncing with energy throughout and respond well to the technical demands of Gary Lloyd's slick choreography.

It is a shame that behind these performances is a very static and uninspiring set. The scene changes are made solely through lighting and the placement of small items of furniture. It feels like a missed opportunity to add more interest and sparkle.

Some of Murphy and O'Keefe's music and lyrics do not grab enough and sometimes is forgettable. The exceptions to this are "Seventeen", which soars like a true teenage anthem and "Freeze Your Brain", JD's ode to the frozen slushie drinks that numb his mind and also his feelings. "My Dead Gay Son" is a clever and very funny number, which could have been taken straight from The Book of Mormon.

The bright, upbeat and bubbly score and the colourful design jars slightly with the contents of the story itself, such as suicide, self-harm and murder. Anyone familiar with the film will notice the dark edges have been glossed up and the dark cynicism is somewhat lacking. However, there is enough kitsch energy to carry the sometimes questionable content and this revival of Heathers The Musical is a welcome injection of energy and fun to the West End.

Heathers The Musical is at Theatre Royal Haymarket until 11 September

Photo Credit: Pamela Raith

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