Heathers unapologetically takes the High School Musical out of high school musicals.
This is a relentlessly real, uncomfortably confrontational expose of the thoughts, feelings and experiences of teenagers. High school is often jokingly compared to prison; it can be compared to a war zone and it is, more often than not, hell. Heathers, whilst shrouded in jokes and witty retorts, portrays just that – the true darkness and pressures of teenage life. Brought to life by the direction of Andy Fickman, Kevin Murphy’s and Laurence O’Keefe’s show is an absolute masterpiece.
Where this production is remarkable, is in its ability to package up intense content in such interesting and unexpected ways. We are often guilty of trivialising the hardships of high school, but Heathers unravels the stories behind things like “date rape”, suicide, mental health and eating disorders. The plot follows Veronica Sawyer, the classic uncool kid, work her way into the trio of quote unquote: “mythic bitches”. Overnight her popularity blooms, at times causing her to lose sight of who she is and what is really important to her. At the same time, Veronica meets the new boy, JD. JD is a twisted individual, warped by a traumatic and pain filled childhood – your classic bad boy. Between the two of them, they decide to put to rights the injustice of high school hierarchies, taking unconventional and unlawful measures to do so… let’s just say, the plot is Hamlet-esque.
First and foremost, I want to pay tribute to Christina Bennington who spends the entire performance on stage, delivering over two hours of non-stop quality. As an established leading lady, Christina is truly captivating – both in character and in voice. Despite the questionable morals, Veronica remains an undeniably likeable character. She is badass to the core and such a refreshing presence on stage. Other standout performances include that of Jordan Luke Gage and his intoxicating brutality. What is particularly impressive, is Jordan’s command of JD’s bipolarity and the way this translates to his songs, some of which rocket and fluctuate between ballad and aggression, as easily as turning off a switch. Together, Jordan and Christina are an incredible duo with electric chemistry and beautifully matched voices. Another sensational duo is that of Ross Harmon and Joaquin Pedro Valdes whose misled antics make for shocking, but incredibly entertaining viewing.
Generally, the talent of the cast is faultless. As the soundtrack is so demanding, it is however no surprise that vocal quality is sometimes compromised. There is a very fine line to be found between technique and screeching – a line that is at times (but certainly not often) fallen foul of in this production. Another area that doesn’t quite hit the mark for me is the gelling of the three Heathers. There is something a little off, affecting their synchronisation and at times coming across as a little clumsy. That being said, each Heather is an incredible talent. I particularly love Frances Mayli McCann’s rendition of Lifeboat.
Other notable numbers include My Dead Gay Son, Freeze Your Brain, Seventeen and Dead Girl Walking. I would urge everyone to give the soundtrack a listen – if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to turn it off!
As a closing thought, I want to pay homage to the production team: scenery, lighting and costume. Each are entirely effective, but none are over bearing, adding final finesse to this unique production.
The show is in town until September, so be sure to grab your tickets soon.
- Book, music & lyrics by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe
- Directed by Andy Fickman
- Choreographer/Associate Director: Gary Lloyd
- Based on the film by Daniel Waters
- Cast includes: Christina Bennington, Jordan Luke Gage, Jodie Steele, Bobbie Little, Frances Mayli McCann, Lauren Ward, Madison Swan, Ross Harmon, Joaquin Pedro Valdes, Steven Serlin and Simon Bailey
- Theatre Royal Haymarket
- Until 11th September 2021
- Time: approximately 2 hours 30 minutes, including interval