Following two smash-hit London West End runs, Heathers the Musical was one of the first major shows to hit the stage after the Covid-19 hiatus. And it’s back with its dark, aggressive style that is wowing audiences as the show continues its first-ever UK tour. You can catch Heathers at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 6th November.
If you have seen and loved the film, you are in for a treat, but for the newcomers, know this – despite the 1989 style costumes, brilliant music choices, and outstanding performances, Heathers covers some very dark themes. Consider this an early trigger warning, explained more below.
So what is it all about?
Welcome to 1989 at American school Westerberg High. New girl Veronica Sawyer (performed flawlessly by Rebecca Wickes) wants to hit the ground running, become popular and make it through the year without being bullied.
Of course, as all school tropes go, Westerberg High is polarised into groups. There are the jocks, the misfits, and of course, the popular crowd, including a subsect, the mean girls. At this particular school, the lead meanies are Heather Duke (Merryl Ansah) and Heather McNamara (Lizzy Parker), led by queen bee Heather Chandler (Maddison Firth) described by Veronica in the show as “a mythic bitch”.
Seizing an opportunity to get in with the Heather gang, Veronica casts aside her best friend, Martha Dunnstock (Mhairi Angus). This decision will go on to change her life and the entire school community permanently.
At the same time, the effortlessly cool Jason “J.D.” Dean (Simon Gordon) walks into her life. A loner with a tilted view of the world, he seems to be a beacon of light to Veronica.
Torn between keeping J.D. and the pack of Heathers happy, Veronica finds herself stretched thin until finally she is forced into deciding whether she will remain part of the in-crown or protect Martha. Ultimately, she makes the right choice. Until J.D. convinces her to murder one of the Heathers and leave a fake suicide note.
That note jumpstarts a campaign around teen suicide, with a mixed outpouring of emotions in her classmates. It is also the beginning of a change in J.D, who rapidly evolves into a serial killer.
You were warned. Heathers the Musical is dark, atmospheric, and aggressive, viewing the teenage years of angst through a warped lens. Murder, mental illness, bullying, date rape, homophobia, and loneliness all fall within the Heathers remit. And yet, without belittling these issues, Heathers manages to cover all this ground in an upbeat, tongue-in-cheek manner.
The music and lyrics by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe are catchy and brilliantly hilarious. Every voice on stage is strong, with every performer having an opportunity to shine through.
The three Heathers worked brilliantly as a sassy pack of mean girls, and their catchy performance of Candy Store will be caught in your head, at the expense of the rest of the score, for weeks to come.
Also among the night’s highlights was Mhairi Angus as Martha performing Kindergarten Boyfriend, which was a lovely moment of calm in the unfolding chaos.
Comedic relief is easy to find in Heathers, but Liam Doyle and Rory Phelan as the airheaded jocks Kurt and Ram were an epic double act.
Heathers The Musical is definitely not intended as a feel-good show. You’ll be laughing throughout, but there is so much scope for shock and horror, you’ll catch yourself holding your breath at times.
Is it worth it? 100%! Catch this at the New Wimbledon Theatre while you can, but be prepared for all “the feels,” as the popular crowd of today might say.
Get your tickets here.