Editor-in-Chief Chelsie Henshaw and Social Secretary Ella Kipling create our first double-perspective review on the musical Heathers, hailing it as a ‘must-see classic’
Content Warning: This article contains mentions of suicide and murder which some readers may find distressing.
Perspective 1: Ella Kipling
Heathers at the Alexandra Theatre is a particularly raunchy, yet equally fabulous, stage production based on the 1989 Daniel Waters film of the same name.
The musical tells the story of Westerberg High, a school that revolves around the ‘Heathers,’ three girls with the same name and matching colour coordinated uniforms. Veronica, the quiet girl, joins their group but quickly runs into trouble when her new boyfriend, JD, convinces her to kill Heather Chandler with poison.
Rebecca Wickes as Veronica is able to portray the pain and drama of the character whilst also flawlessly executing the humorous moments. The chemistry between Veronica and JD (played by Simon Gordon) is palpable onstage and their duets (‘Our Love is God’ and ‘Seventeen’) truly showcased their vocals.
In Heathers, the talent of the entire cast is shown which is perfectly exemplified through Mhairi Angus’ solo as Martha Dunnstock towards the end of the show. While Martha is a relatively nondescript character through most of the musical, her song ‘Kindergarten Boyfriend’ was a real highlight with flawless vocals.
The musical’s adult humour and discussion of suicide, sex, and murder meant that it felt almost wrong to laugh at some parts, though this no doubt adds to the show’s popularity. Andy Brady and Kurt Kansley’s duet ‘My Dead Gay Son,’ during which they dance around their sons’ funerals and admit their love for one another ensures that even in the show’s darker moments there is an undertone of comedy. The characters who die at the hands of JD remain part of the show which is a clever choice as it results in Ram and Kurt haunting Veronica onstage whilst in their matching tighty-whitey underpants.
A review of Heathers would not be complete without mentioning the Heathers themselves. Maddison Firth was a real powerhouse as Heather Chandler and Merryl Ansah captured the essence of the second-in-command Heather Duke, whilst Lizzy Parker as Heather McNamara conveyed the nuanced personality of the slightly kinder mean girl. The synchronised jazz moves and the iconic red, blue, and yellow Chanel-esque schoolgirl suits meant that the Heathers always drew the audiences’ attention whilst on stage. Ansah’s ‘Never Shut Up Again’ marks the shift in the show’s mood towards a slightly darker and chaotic one which is punctuated excellently by the sudden onstage costume transition which won a collective gasp from the audience.
All in all, Heathers gives the audience something very few musicals have: Explicit content, endless jokes about murder and sex, brilliant vocals, fun 80s inspired costumes, and the perfect mix of ballads and upbeat group numbers. If you mix all those together you are left with a fun and hilarious musical I would recommend wholeheartedly.
Perspective 2: Chelsie Henshaw
I am going to be brutally honest here and say that I have never really seen myself as a ‘fan’ of musicals; my knowledge and experience of them is very limited. However, after seeing how many people enjoy watching them (like my co-reviewer Ella Kipling) I thought I would give them a go. Arguably, I may have thrown myself in at the deep end with Heathers and its drama-filled plot, but I would say it was a great introduction into the musical world.
Although Ella and I were originally sceptical about how successfully the actors and actresses could pass for teens, they did it surprisingly well. The power dynamic, the focus on popularity and the constant bickering and arguing between all of the characters was completely reminiscent of the typical school experience. Veronica’s (Rebecca Sawyer) crush on J.D. (Simon Gordon) was very high school like in its presentations and the chemistry between the two was unmissable. Throughout the musical, there are many intimate moments between them, including a particularly racy scene depicting Veronica’s first time.
I also really enjoyed the costumes and the symbolism behind them. I thought that Heather Duke’s (Merryl Ansah) transition from wearing green to red was very interesting, it represents her transition to the role of Heather Chandler (Maddison Firth), from good to bad. One of my favourite characters and actresses in the show has to be Heather Mcnamara (Lizzy Parker) who gave me big Blair Waldorf vibes, not just from her appearance but also from her personality – throughout the show, her insecurities were revealed, especially at the point of her attempted suicide. McNamara’s character was a great presentation of the struggles teens face, especially in this day and age. I also appreciated the costume of J.D. which just screamed ‘villian’ with his all-black ensemble and long trench coat.
The show definitely provided a fair few laughs in the audience and I would say that these were often triggered by the dynamic duo of Kurt and Ram. Liam Doyle (Kurt) and Rory Phelan (Ram) perfectly encapsulated the typical ‘jock’ trope that we are all familiar with in American movies. Their lad banter and silly antics managed to render the show fairly light-hearted considering its main themes of suicide and sexual harassment.
One other thing I must mention is the songs – it is a musical after all. Personally, my favourite was Seventeen (Reprise), a coming together between all of the characters and is thus a fitting song to mark the end of the show. It also needs to be said that all of the songs were performed brilliantly, I was blown away by the musical talent of all involved in the cast.
Overall, the show provided an immersive experience with brilliant acting and feel-good songs which will definitely be added to a Spotify playlist. If you are new to musicals like me or even if you are a musical fanatic like Ella, this is a must-see classic.
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