Review: Heathers the Musical, The Other Palace

RATING: ★★★★★

How very! Heathers the Musical, currently playing at The Other Palace, is a fantastic high school story full of dark humour and lots of heart. It's based on the 1988 cult classic film starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater and the musical adaptation previously gained its own cult following during its off-Broadway run. Under Andy Fickman's brilliant direction, this new and improved version is better than ever.

It tells the story of teenager Veronica Sawyer who befriends the Heathers, a clique of popular girls, in hopes of making it through senior year socially unscathed. Throw in a boyfriend with a penchant for murder, a couple of existential crises, and some big musical theatre numbers and you've got a great show. The musical features classic lines from the movie (like "Say hi to God for me") and amazing songs by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O'Keefe. Chances are you might have already heard of "Dead Girl Walking", "Candy Store", and "Freeze Your Brain".

As I mentioned this production features some changes to the show by its original creative team, including new dialogue and two new songs. "You're Welcome" replaces "Blue" which used to be my least favourite song in the show. The new song deals with the delicate subject matter a lot better and also gives Veronica much more agency in the situation. There's also a new song called "Never Shut Up Again" for Heather Duke, who previously didn't have her own solo, and it's an absolute bop.

I love the design for Heathers and how they made it feel like a big show despite being in a fairly small venue. The moving set pieces are amazing; my favourite is the window which plays into several scenes. Having the actual object to use makes such a difference! I also absolutely love the costumes...I think I may need to find some friends to dress up as the Heathers with for next Halloween.

I also thought Gary Lloyd's choreography was fantastic and well suited to the tone of the show. I particularly loved the blocking of party number, "Big Fun". I also adore that they play 1980's music before the show and during the interval to get you into the mood. It was so fun to see everyone jamming out in the theatre!

The entire ensemble of this show is so strong, with each member making the student they play feel very distinct and fleshed out. Rebecca Lock is fantastic as teacher Ms Fleming; I used to not like her song "Shine a Light" but Rebecca certainly changed my mind. I love the bit where you picks a guy in the audience to address a line to and then ad libs a bit. It was so funny and every time a friend goes to see the show, I ask what she said in that part.

The Heathers are the ultimate mean girl clique and I couldn't imagine a better trio than this cast. Jodie Steele is appropriately kind of terrifying as Heather Chandler, with that cool girl air and an incredible voice. Her dancing around in "Me Inside of Me" was one of my favourite bits of the show. T'Shan Williams has some powerhouse vocals as Heather Duke and is wonderfully cool and calculating. Sophie Isaacs is adorable as Heather McNamara and her "Lifeboat" is absolutely heart-wrenching. (Seriously, she's like Galinda in a yellow blazer.)

Christopher Chung and Dominic Anderson are hilarious as football stars Kurt and Ram. They manage to play up the comedy of the roles without ever losing the fact that their behavior is pretty horrible. However, they bring a certain charm to their parts that makes it easy to believe that they're the popular guys at school.

Jamie Muscato is incredible in the role of JD, Veronica's boyfriend who turns out to be bad news. His voice is gorgeous in songs like "Freeze Your Brain" and "Our Love is God", but it's his acting that really blew me away (pun intended). I loved the way he portrayed JD's trajectory leading up to "Meant to Be Yours" when it becomes clear that JD has bigger problems than we realized before. (I also was cracked up by the way he did dance numbers like "Shine a Light" and "I Love My Dead Gay Son" with a smirk on his face that was so in character.)

I've been a fan of Carrie Hope Fletcher for years and I was ecstatic when she was cast as Veronica, but I was not prepared for how amazing she is in the role. Carrie has managed to pull out the vulnerable, optimistic, naive side of the character in a way that makes so much sense looking at the book. Her Veronica is the kind of girl that I can see being easily manipulated by the Heathers and JD because as she says in the opening song, "Beautiful", she honestly believes that people are good. Her "Fight For Me" broke my heart a bit in its earnestness, but her strength in the later half of the show was inspiring.

I've nothing against Barrett Wilbert Weed who originally played Veronica off-Broadway, but seeing Carrie in the role was the first time that I could truly relate to the character. I loved that she seemed a bit geeky and that she was totally under JD's sway despite her strong morals...because he is dangerously charming and I was completely won over too.

I will also admit that I cried at one point during the show because it means so much to see a girl of my size (and I know that Carrie and I are similar sizes because she mentioned what size clothes she bought in a recent Primark haul on her YouTube channel) playing an 'average' girl who is at times portrayed as sexy in the show. Often, what we are shown as 'average size' onstage and onscreen is actually much smaller than the actual average woman's size. It's amazing to see representation for women of all shapes and sizes. I've actually felt much better about my body than usual since seeing Heathers last weekend.

If there's one issue with this production, it's simply that their American accents are occasionally a bit dodgy across the board. However, I'm not sure someone who isn't actually American would even be able to tell and it's certainly no worse than the British accents you hear in Kinky Boots on Broadway.

Heathers is the kind of story that I think the theatre world needs right now: it has a dark humour that I think appeals to a generation who spends most of their time on the Internet, big fun numbers that will get stuck in your head, characters that you'll recognize from your own life, and a beautiful message about acceptance and forgiveness. While Heathers is currently sold out, you can try your luck in their weekly lottery or in the returns queue. I know I'm trying my best to see it a second time! My fingers are certainly crossed for a cast recording...or a Broadway production in the near future?

Be sure to check out my video review of Heathers as well:

Photo Credit: Pamela Raith
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