MusicalReviewSouth West

Heathers – Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Reviewer: Megan Pearce

Book/Music/Lyrics: Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe

Director: Andy Fickman

As the curtains rise on the UK tour of Heathers The Musical, anticipation runs high. With a reputation for its darkly comedic themes and catchy tunes, the audience is primed for a night of twisted entertainment.

The musical is based on the 1989 cult classic film of the same name. The adaptation debuted Off-Broadway in 2014 and transferred to the West End in 2018. In recent years many of the musical numbers have been gaining notoriety on TikTok – particularly Big Fun and Meant to be Yours.

Heathers the Musical follows high school student Veronica as she climbs her way up the social ladder, falls in love and finds that her desires often have murderous consequences. The production comes with a long list of trigger warnings including “murder, suicide, sexual violence and references to eating disorders”, these themes are sandwiched with dark humour and musical numbers as well as gun violence.

However, from the opening number, the cast’s energy is undeniable. The performances are lively, with standout vocals that capture the essence of each character. Veronica Sawyer, played by Jenna Innes, brings a relatable blend of vulnerability and determination to her role, while the Heathers, portrayed by Verity Thompson, Elise Zavou, and Billie Bowman, radiate the perfect amount of sass and attitude.

The audience are transported to a stereotypical high school. Freeze the scene at any point – which is often done in a GCSE drama style – you could think you were watching Grease, Mean Girls or High School Musical. The set design is innovative, seamlessly transitioning between the halls of Westerberg High and Veronica’s troubled mind. The use of projections adds depth and dimension to the scenes, enhancing the overall visual experience. The costume choices are also commendable, effectively differentiating the cliques while adding a contemporary edge to the characters.

However, as the musical progresses, a few shortcomings become evident. The pacing seems to falter in some scenes, hindering the flow of the story. Additionally, while the comedic elements land well, some of the darker moments could use more emotional depth to fully resonate with the audience. The humour sometimes overshadows the underlying themes, leaving one to wonder if the balance between satire and substance has been maintained.

Unfortunately, the sound or diction is not overly balanced or clear in some parts, with many of the humorous lines and plot points being lost in the backing music. The standout of the evening is undoubtedly the musical numbers. The score retains its infectious charm, with iconic songs like Candy Store and Dead Girl Walking delivered with gusto. The choreography is impressive, incorporating a mix of contemporary dance and classic musical theatre moves that are visually appealing and energetically executed. The vocal performances and tone of Jacob Fowler who plays the love interest JD and Kingsley Morton who plays bullying victim Martha Dunnstock, were breathtaking. Both cast members showcased an effortless range and were a joy to listen to.

Alex Woodward and Morgan Jackson who played class jocks and all-round idiots Kurt and Ram, have a wonderful rapport and give some light relief to the overall hefty themes.

Heathers The Musical, the UK tour succeeds in delivering an entertaining evening that captures the essence of the cult classic film with a hugely talented cast. While it does not shy away from its dark subject matter, it could benefit from finding a stronger equilibrium between its comedic and serious elements. For those looking for a wickedly fun time with memorable tunes and vibrant performances, this tour is worth catching. However, the plot feels dated and borders on glamorising horrifying issues.

Runs until 26 August 2023

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Awkward Dark Comedy

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The Southwest team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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