Black musical comedy, Heathers The Musical, has graduated with honours to the West End, opening at the Theatre Royal Haymarket this week to whoops of laughter and screams of delight from enthusiastic audiences.
Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe’s right of passage story spent a freshman semester at Off-West End Theatre, The Other Palace, and quickly earned enough merits to transfer to the West End.
Refreshing, fun and irreverent Heathers is based on Daniel Waters’s iconic 1988 film of the same name that starred Christian Slater and Winona Ryder.
Thirty years may have passed yet Heathers still strikes a chord with young audiences.
They may have been born well after the original film but it’s a DVD favourite and they can identify with the ordeal many youngsters endure at senior schools.
Bullying, intimidation, peer pressure, body shaming, the cliquey gangs that form, the odd ones out who get excluded, social media trolling…the list is endless. Getting through those teenage years is a minefield.
But Heathers takes those very serious subjects and packages them in a user-friendly high school teen romp which I can see gaining the same iconic status as the film.
Why this has such a short London run defies belief. This is a show that could run and run, particularly if they pitch the ticket prices low enough to attract younger theatre-goers.
And surely producer Bill Kenwright is planning a national tour? He’d be crazy not to.
Anyway, back to the West End show. Greetings and salutations, welcome to Westerburg High, in sleepy Ohio, and the class of 1989.
Carrie Hope Fletcher’s Veronica Sawyer just wants to get through the last semester without incident.
So she hits on a cunning plan to ingratiate herself with the popular girls – the Heathers – hoping their protection will save her from the clutches of brainless jock duo, Ram and Kurt, and the rest.
But rich kids, Heather Chandler, Heather Duke and Heather McNamara are three of the nastiest, bitchiest pieces of work, to ever rule the roost in academia. Even the staff are scared of them.
However, this unholy trio make Veronica’s life a living hell. Just when she thinks she can’t take any more, a new boy enrols, someone who doesn’t give a damn about popularity, a place on the football team, or an invite to the parties.
Jason JD Dean, pale and interesting, is a maverick who’d rather read a book in the local 7-Eleven that win popularity contests.
So, of course, Veronica is smitten. Only JD has a very final way of dealing with the classroom bullies and pretty soon the body count at Westerburg begins to mount.
Anti-hero JD is likely to catapult young actor, Jamie Muscato, to teen idol status in the same way fans fell for Robert Patttinson’s deathly vampiric looks in the Twilight series.
His obsession with Veronica becomes all consuming with terrifying results.
“You’re not Bonny and I’m not Clyde,” yells Veronica, trying to control him. But can she before it’s too late?
The humour comes thick and fast. Dominic Anderson and Christopher Chung as the oversexed lettermen, Ram and Kurt, are hilarious and spend most of the show tripping around with the ghostly Heather Chandler (Jodie Steele – just terrific) in their y-fronts (“hey, we’re matching!” says dumbass Ram).
In-between the dark comedy are moments of real emotion. You can’t help but feel for Veronica’s best friend, Jenny O’Leary’s Martha Dunnstock, who attempts suicide after being ridiculed about of her size.
Everyone will recognise the sterotypes.
Musically, Murphy and O’Keefe’s numbers are pertinent, boppy and generally uplifting, although I couldn’t remember any of them after leaving the theatre.
But, overall this is a fabulous musical with Carrie Hope Fletcher giving a stand-out turn as Veronica and Muscato winning hearts with his dark and broody JD.