Heathers The Musical
Theatre Royal Brighton
18th March 2023
It was my first time. A line from this bizarre high school musical which reflects my own experience this evening and wow did I get more than I bargained for!
Westerberg High’s Veronica Sawyer is just another nobody dreaming of a better day. But when she joins the beautiful and impossibly cruel Heathers and her dreams of popularity may finally come true, mysterious teen rebel JD teaches her that it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder being a somebody.
From the off the cast own the stage, giving full throttle performance and working within the compact confines of the Theatre Royals stage to pull out convincing feeling of a High School full of movement, activity and stories. This is a deeply dark and twisted story of bullying, murder, and dealing with malevolent peer pressure all given a bright primary colour candyfloss coating. I’d not seen the film or the musical before so was wide eyed at the narrative surprises and the plot development. What gory Gothic fun!
All the cast are supreb, the main five singers each having a moment to shine and the twisted love ballads and their reprieves from damaged Jacob Fowlers ‘JD’ and Jenna Innes’ ‘Veronica Sawyer’ show a real connection, giving the right amount of innocence twisting into horrified awareness. Verity Thompson’s ‘Heather Chandler’s’ powerful singing rightly dominating the others in the first half and then finding a more appealing tone as she literally ghosts her way through the second half.
There’s a few technical problems with the sound, at least from the stalls, with the bass elements muffling the singing, resulting in some dulling of the diction, with none of the singers managing to overcome this, perhaps a first night problem? Overall, the rock element is handled well, the live band responding vigorously and working seamlessly with the all singing all dancing team on stage.
Lighting is lovely, using single matching colours to pick out The Heathers, shifting from school to home, to church and back again, working in unison with a mostly static set which has a few rotating and sliding elements to give a ‘flavour’ of the space. Mostly we are in the school, so this works.
The second half opening to the funeral of two of the pupils with probably one of the most bizarre tune I’ve heard since Little Shop of Horrors. ‘My dead Gay son’ made me laugh out loud, its performed with audacity, shock and real energy and carried this slightly problematic song well out of the critical arena and into the realms of daft satire sodden musical genius. Elise Zavou as Heather Duke also shines in her colour coded ascent to Heather Prime, with an excellent costume relevel which delighted the excited audience in ‘Never shut up again’
The songs, funny, frothy and tart as they are are given full pelt and passion by this spot-on singing ensemble and their close harmonies, faux 1980’s vibes and simple costumes offering up a compelling energy which spills off the stage in buckets and sloshes around a very enthusiastic audience.
I was curious how many young people, girls in particular, were stuffed in the theatre. It was a sold out night, that’s the power of Tic Tok on display to fill a theatre on opening night, most of them not even old enough to have seen the film or the musical first time round, testament to quite what a cult following this dark and deeply disturbed musical has. It’s hugely enjoyable to be in a theatre with the audience so visibility thrilled with what’s going on on stage, from the murderous drama to the sex scenes, gasping, oohing and clapping with joy. When the Jocks strip down you could feel the thirsty energy like static in the air!
I went in expecting little and left with a huge smile on my face, my companion – a huge Heathers Fan had a superb time – laughing and clapping along with vigour, appreciating the silly one liners, the wonderfully camp rhymes and the thirst inducing eye candy being so generously shared by the two handsome Jock’s – Morgan Jackson and Alex Woodward- kindly spending most of the second half in their pants offering up plenty of opportunity to appreciate the hard work going into those buff ripped bodies, whilst also noting their singing and dancing skills, obviously.
If you can get a ticket, get one and enjoy this desperately dark, deeply ironic, savagely sarcastic, and oddly likable musical. As I wandered off into the crisp march evening air, through a really happy chatty and entertained crowd I realised I’m now a huge Heathers fan!
Until Saturday 18th
For more info or to buy tickets check out the Theatre Royal Brighton Ticket Website
Review: Eric Page