Heathers the Musical
Book, music and lyrics by Kevin Murphy and Lawrence O'Keefe, based on the film written by Daniel Waters
Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills in association with Really Useful Group
Theatre Royal Haymarket
It has taken almost three decades for what was a cult movie to make it to the musical stage. This production, co-written by one of the men behind Legally Blonde, has a similar feel, making it a likely hit with the teen market. It may also appeal to those that are young at heart and still have fond memories of enjoying a film that empowered women before such ideas came into vogue.
Like many Brat Pack features of the era, what is almost a fairytale, given the simplicity of the plotting and lack of characterisation, is set in Westerberg High School in smalltown Ohio.
There, the roost is ruled by two different power bases. First, there are the high school jocks who might star on the football team but missed out when the brain cells were given out. More threatening are the Heathers, a 17-year-old female mean machine who are reminiscent of the Reservoir Dogs, if those killers can be reimagined in variously coloured, garish cheerleader outfits.
Led by Jodie Steele's red devil of a Heather, they sneer and bully as if born to the role, making life hell for sweet natured Veronica Sawyer, played by Carrie Hope Fletcher.
When all hope of a quiet life seems to have gone, the outsider is adopted as an honorary Heather, finally garnering the kind of popularity that any schoolgirl would kill for.
However, having a generous nature does not fit in with a place on the high school mean team. As a result, when Jamie Muscato in the role of a leather-clad cool kid named JD rolls into town, looking like the epitome of grunge but willing to smile and lead, Veronica falls head over heels for him.
JD's methodology for protection is unorthodox to say the least, owing more to Al Capone than the average teenager. Indeed, at times this musical seems to be deliberately prefiguring the vogue for high school massacres that has overtaken the United States in the period since the original story hit the silver screen.
While the plotting is nothing to write home about, the music harks back to the 1980s, containing a few catchy tunes such as "Beautiful" and a couple of super power ballads, allowing Carrie Hope Fletcher to exercise her tonsils to good effect, particularly in "I Say No" and “I am Damaged”, the star's musical high point, before what could have been a rather unpleasant bloodbath concludes in a fashion more suitable to musical stage.
Heathers is hardly an intellectual feast but it is packed with catchy music, lively choreography, humour of varying quality and an underlying feminist message that will please contemporary audiences. With that kind of mix, this limited run should prove popular.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher