It’s not very often that you walk into a London theatre to the sound of “Hungry Like The Wolf” by Duran Duran and other 80s classics, but ‘Heathers’ is no ordinary West End musical.
Based on the 1989 film of the same name starring Winona Ryder, ‘Heathers’ focuses on Veronica Sawyer (played by Carrie Hope Fletcher), as she gets swept up in the world of the Heathers who are this story’s equivalent of The Plastics, but even worse. In red, we have Heather Chandler (Jodie Steele), the queen bee. In yellow, Heather McNamara (Sophie Isaacs) and finally, we have Heather Duke (T’Shan Williams) in green. Sadistic and calculated, the Heathers rule the school trampling anyone in their way. At the start of the story, we watch Veronica get taken under their wing and styled in their image, donning her blue uniform. Veronica eventually tires of their cruel behaviour and views herself as their co-worker, not their friend. Annoyance quickly turns to curiosity when she meets mysterious new boy Jason ‘JD’ Dean (Jamie Muscato). Soon enough, Veronica’s life becomes anything but boring as she is dragged into a world of murder, teen suicide, sex, and bullying.
After enjoying a sell-out, limited run at the Other Palace theatre, it was announced that the show would be transferring to London’s Haymarket Theatre Royal for another limited, West End run. This version of ‘Heathers’ saw multiple changes to the Off-Broadway show that debuted in 2014; three new songs were added and script changes were made to create the show that became an instant, and unexpected sensation in the UK.
Before I start gushing about how talented each actor is, the first thing I should mention is the strength of the cast as a whole. Each movement, choreographed or not, is perfectly in sync and every harmony is balanced to an astonishing level of skill. While the leading actors carry this show incredibly, the ensemble creates the true atmosphere of daunting high school corridors and parties which is extremely necessary for helping you to empathise with each of the characters.
When Carrie Hope Fletcher was announced as the West End’s Veronica, I excited beyond words to see someone so talented, playing a role I loved. Much to my delight, Fletcher plays Veronica with adept ease. Her voice leaves absolutely nothing to be desired, hitting each belted high note flawlessly. Not only this, but her comic timing throughout both acts of the show never falters. She manages to create a laugh out of the smallest movement or look. Along with her natural chemistry with her cast mates and confidence on the stage, and you have a truly dazzling performance.
JD is a hard role to master; you have to balance perfectly on the line of a dreamy heartthrob and borderline psychopathic, a line Jamie Muscato toes masterfully. You can’t help but understand why Veronica falls so deeply under his spell, the boy simply oozes charm. He plays a slow descent into near madness skilfully, even portraying it in his vocals which seem to become more desperate as the story unfolds.
There is a reason why the show is named after the Heathers of course. They are a true joy to watch. Jodie Steele is utterly ruthless as Heather Chandler. She dominates the stage with an effortless stage presence. You can’t help but keep one eye on her at all times, even when she is simply someone in the background of a scene. Heather Duke, played by T’Shan Williams, sneaks up on you as a true villain. She starts the show as someone practically beaten in submission by Heather Chandler but grows to become the real mean girl. T’Shan plays her with such cruelty and disregard for others, you begin to hate how much you love her. She commands the respect she wants, shown in her 80s sounding solo “Never Shut Up Again”, one of the new additions for this version. Sophie Isaacs reveals the soft side of Heather McNamara throughout the show all too well. You feel bad for her instantly, seeing just how clearly the need to be popular can drive someone to be unkind. The three also have an impressive vocal ability, sounding almost as one when during their trio song “Candy Store”.
The talent in this show is clearly abundant, but that’s not the only thing that makes this show worth seeing. For the first time, I sat in an audience made up of people who seemed to mostly be below 30. ‘Heathers’ has become such a cultural phenomenon because it has managed to capture the attention of a younger generation. While having a brilliant soundtrack and being laugh-out-loud funny, it’s the themes of this show that have allowed such a connection to be made. It highlights bullying, teen suicide and sexual assault, things that are unfortunately too common and relatable in our current society. ‘Heathers’ allows conversations to be started about these dark issues, whilst remaining light-hearted. A show like this does not come around often, and I would highly recommend securing tickets before its run ends. I can assure you that this musical does not disappoint.
By Robbie Nichols