Tuesday, 9th May 2023 at York Grand Theatre and Opera House.
There’s catty, there’s bitchy, and then there’s Heathers The Musical: “mythic bitch” central. With book, music and lyrics by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe, and based on the 1988 film by Daniel Waters, this show is a darkly comic look at the sacrifices a nobody makes in order to survive Westberg High School – going from a nobody to a somebody with some very dark secrets.
That nobody is Veronica Sawyer and Jenna Innes is brilliant in this central role, excelling in all areas. She’s a fabulously sardonic narrator, a stellar vocalist and has great comedic timing to boot. When Veronica infiltrates the inner sanctum of the “it girl” Heathers, she also conveniently crosses paths with oddball Jason Dean (Jacob Fowler): a fellow nobody but also comically and theatrically mysterious. They make quite a pair. And it’s rare to see a pairing so completely in-step as Innes and Fowler. Vocally? Brilliant. Comically? Beat for beat. Chemistry? A smooth blend of comedy and drama as their relationship takes on a bit of a Phantom vibe while events spiral…
The ensemble cast are also fantastic, channeling their shiniest Grease-level enthusiasm, but switching jiving for jibing at each other with all the snarling disdain of Mean Girls. They offer a parade of cliques and stereotypes but do so with a sense of fun and humour despite the casual venom on display. Verity Thompson’s Heather Chandler owns the stage and is a top notch Queen Bitch: merciless in her cruelty; powerful in her influence; limitless in her vanity. Flanked by the obligatory hangers-on, she seems unstoppable in her cruel reign… And those Heather-hangers-on are played with predictable transparency by Summer Priest and Billie Bowman: each coveting the lead position but inevitably stalling as they walk in Head Heather’s shadow. Thanks to David Shield’s designs, the tartan uniforms of the Heathers have also reached iconic status if the audience is anything to go by – watch out Rocky Horror?
Alex Woodward and Morgan Jackson also sweep the board as comedy caricatures: they’re the brainless jocks, always wanting to be on top and yet always ten steps behind, giving alpha male energy to the backs of heads. In turn, Kingsley Morton gives a winning turn as Martha Dunnstock, the invisible wallpaper girl – delivering on vocals and the sympathy sweet-spot, Morton really makes the most of her turn to belt to the rafters.
The comedy in Heathers is often silly and outlandish but also very dark and very close to the knuckle. It embraces both catty teen humour and acerbic grown-up asides, but it can feel uncomfortable in places as it sits, dated and dark, against a backdrop of today’s youth-centred headlines. So ultimately, this show is classic-funny but it’s also distinctly Cards Against Humanity/ Book of Mormon-funny, so be prepared to grimace a little even as the ridiculousness prods at the funny bone. As for music, there isn’t a “bad” or forgettable song to be found here: top songs include the girl-group tribute with a twist for “Candy Store”; the fantastic belters “Dead Girl Walking” and “I Say No”; the very catchy “Seventeen”; and the rather creepy but beautiful duet “Our Love is God”.
Most impressive about this show is just how incredibly slick it is. While the episodic nature of scenes makes it feel drawn out at times, Andy Fickman’s direction and Gary Lloyd’s choreography give this musical both edge and flair and the sense of precision running throughout perfectly matches the militant harshness of the Heathers. Time after time, the cast deliver perfectly synchronised moments with catwalk attitude, and it’s just great entertainment.
Heathers: The Musical takes teen angst to high heights and low lows – with a superb cast in place, you can expect great entertainment and top talent with this production.
Heathers: The Musical is at York Grand Theatre and Opera House until May 13th 2023 – you can find tickets here. The tour then continues until October 2023 and you can find more information and tickets here.
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