Review Heathers the Musical, Manchester Palace Theater
Heathers the Musical arrives at Manchester’s Palace Theatre this October as part of its UK tour, so we popped along to see if it could really equal the cult classic from the eighties.
Fans of the 1988 film Heathers, which starred Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and Shannen Doherty, will already be familiar with the plot, but for all of you Heathers virgins, this is for you.
Heathers tells the tale of regular girl Veronica, who attempts to survive life at Westerburg High by befriending the three most popular girls at school (who are all incidentally called Heather). Things take a darker twist when Veronica meets newcomer J.D., who convinces her to turn against the Heathers and their cruel antics…..and when one of the Heathers is murdered it seems that there’s just no going back.
If you are thinking that this might be something along the lines of High School Musical, which you can bring your tween along to, you would most definitely be wrong; Heathers the Musical carries an age rating of 14+, and features sexual scenes and strong language including classic lines such as “f*** me gently with a chainsaw”. Daniel Waters originally wrote Heathers as an anecdote to the optimistic teen movies of the era, filling it with cruelty, murder and revenge. So could a musical version match the cynicism and rebelliousness of the original film?
In all honesty, it’s impossible to compare. Heathers the Musical takes the classic plot and mixes it with smart one-liners, eye-catching costumes, foot-tapping songs and well-choreographed dance moves. What you end up with is a camped-up version; with the same eccentricities, but more energy, drama and plenty of laughs.
Image credit by Pamela Raith
Rebecca Wickes is superb as Veronica Sawyer, as she travels a rollercoaster of emotions, evolving from a girl who simply wants to survive, to finding love (and all the angst that goes with it), to standing up for what she knows is right. In contrast, Heather Chandler, played by Maddison Firth, is a girl you definitely wouldn’t want to cross; dominating the stage both physically and vocally. Merryl Ansah’s (Heather Duke) transformation from a meek follower to domineering leader was authentic, whilst in Lizzy Parker’s Heather, we could see a girl who could be kind when given the chance.
J.D., played by Simon Gordon, progresses in our eyes from an incredibly charismatic man, into one that is damaged irrevocably. He appears genuine if misguided in his wish to change the world, and we are both attracted and terrified by him at the same time.
Image credit by Pamela Raith
The whole cast performed with energy and conviction, and as an ensemble, they should be proud of such a performance, which was filled with joy and vigour, and a delight to be a part of.
There are some fantastic musical moments in Heathers, such as My Dead Day Son, Dead Girl Walking and Beautiful. One of the sweetest and most heartbreaking moments in the show was Martha (Mhairi Angus)’s solo of Kindergarten Boyfriend, which caught me by surprise in its innocence.
The costumes are used for dramatic effect; J.D.’s black outfit contrasting dramatically against the Heathers’ red, green and yellow. There are some pretty surprising costume changes too, so look out for them.
In all honesty, I can’t think of a better remedy to the dark and dismal Autumnal nights than watching Heather’s the Musical, so if you are after a pick-me-up, this show is for you. It won’t be around for long though. Heathers the Musical is playing at Manchester’s Palace Theatre from 5th-9th October 2021, before continuing its UK tour. You can book your tickets here.