Once upon a time, drama nerds were in fact, deemed as ‘nerds’. But now, thanks to the rise of social media platforms such as YouTube transforming kids singing in their bedrooms into superstars, the tables have turned. Drama is now cool. It’s cool to be quirky and dramatic and talented.
Hence, one of the reasons why the teens are out in force when it comes to ‘Heathers The Musical’. With the lead star being a YouTube sensation (and the sister of McFly’s one and only Tom Fletcher), teenagers are finally deeming it ‘cool’ to be into musicals. After all, maybe one day those teenagers watching could become famous, like the YouTuber on stage.
It is clear to see the hype surrounding ‘Heathers’ from the minute you walk up to the theatre. A queue pours out and up the street as people wait to purchase merchandise (notably, some super cool caps and ‘jock’ jackets). There are, also, plenty of young muso’s coming to see the show dressed up as the characters themselves. I’m sorry, I didn’t realise I was seeing Rocky Horror Picture Show?!
And don’t get me started on the hilarious fact that scrunchies are thrown onto the stage during the curtain call… The show already has its own cultish quirks.
But just as Rocky Horror is a cult classic, the lure of Heathers The Musical is pretty similar. This show is definitely the makings of a cult classic and I’m surprised it hasn’t been running before now. Maybe now is just the perfect time for kids to relate to the show’s messages of social acceptance, suicide and angsty teenage love.
The kids of today now have a platform to express themselves, so ‘Heathers The Musical’ has finally found an audience more willing to accept its dark high school humour. ‘Heathers’ is ‘Mean Girls’ on acid.
I always get nervous when a ‘celebrity’ is headlining a musical theatre show. I have seen one too many mediocre celebs starring in roles that could have been played so much better by someone else. But Carrie Hope Fletcher already has a musical theatre background, so I had higher hopes than I did for Marti Pello in ‘Evita’.
As soon as the lights came up and Fletcher appeared on stage, the audience erupted into such loud screaming that I completely missed her first line. Within just a few bars of the opening number, I knew that the show was in safe hands.
Throughout the show, Carrie Hope Fletcher stands out. She has incredible stage presence and undeniable talent. You are drawn to her, like a moth to a flame. While her character, Veronica Sawyer, makes many questionable choices throughout the show, you can’t help but forgive her and brush it aside. She’s the girl you wish was your friend, even though she doesn’t really treat her friends very well.
Fletcher is backed up by the three Heathers (think Regina, Gretchen and Karen in ‘Mean Girls’ but edgier). Jodie Steele is a force to be reckoned with as she struts her stuff and belts her tits off in ‘Candy Store’. Lending a comedic edge to the nasty Heather Chandler, Steele manages to be both menacing and slightly loveable at the same time. But she’s still so mean that you don’t care when she meets her untimely demise.
T’Shan Williams and Sophie Isaacs play the fabulous sidekicks, Heather Duke and Heather Mcnamara. Williams is suitably uptight and cruel as Heather Duke. Her powerhouse vocals are perfectly showcased in ‘Never shut up again’, which was added to the show for its London run. I wonder if the song was written specifically to showcase her vocals because THAT it certainly did.
Sophie Isaacs as Heather McNamara was perfect casting; which is probably why she has remained as the character since its initial workshop in 2017. Think of Karen in ‘Mean Girls’ but a lot perkier, and you’ve got Isaac’s portrayal. The superficial blonde bombshell surprised us all when she gave one of the most honest moments of emotion from the supporting cast in Act Two.
As Heather McNamara sings ‘Lifeboat’, we get our first glimpse into an actual genuine depiction of suicidal thoughts in a show where the characters tend to ‘glamorise suicide’. It is the key moment where we finally get to see the devastating impact that actions can have. You never know who you may be affecting…
Jamie Muscato plays the character of JD so convincingly that the thought of him still makes my skin crawl. His portrayal takes you, along with Veronica, from thinking that he is a brooding, cool, sex god to a psychopathic madman.
The lighthearted and tender nature of Muscato’s performance makes it difficult to dislike him, despite the clear evil elements of his nature. But with a messed-up upbringing, the character of JD raises the lifelong question – are people born monsters or are they made into monsters?
When you’ve grown up in a destructive environment and watched a parent die, how do your values of life and death change? Are we destined to follow in the footsteps of those who teach us how to be in this world?
While Act One is packed full of key story points, I couldn’t help but feel like Act Two had a few songs that were just fillers until we could get back to the main storyline. While I enjoyed all of the numbers, I couldn’t help but feel like ‘Shine a light’ was just put in the show for the sake of allowing another character to belt.
Act Two gave insights into the secondary characters that had been in the background of Act One, which was a nice change of perspective. It gave us a chance to see the effects that the main characters’ actions have on others, without them realising. These stand-alone songs may seem a bit random at first glance, but they are sorely needed. Otherwise, we might not have actually cared about anyone when the story reached its dramatic climax.
There is no shortage of talented performers in this show. Jenny O’Leary as Martha Dunnstock is so cute I just wanted to cuddle her and tell her everything would be OK once she got out of high school.
Dominic Anderson and Chris Chung, as Ram Sweeney and Kurt Kelly, are hilarious as the bumbling jocks. Despite their idiocy and their unorthodox ‘date rape’ song, you still actually feel sorry for them. How on earth did I feel sorry for two potentially would-be rapists? I guess this is where we go back to issues of nature vs nurture with oppressive fathers, and the general stigma of men feeling ‘entitled’. Oooooh controversial…
Heathers The Musical explores most of the elements of high school that make it hellish. It just adds some kick ass songs and a bit of murder for good measure.
While the show doesn’t tackle the theme of teen suicide in the most influential way, it is a brutal and rollicking fun ride. If you’re someone who is easily offended, you may feel sensitive throughout most of the show. ‘Heathers The Musical’ tends to tackle darker issues but never really resolve them. But if I wanted to sob my heart out, I’d go to ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ for that.
We all know that high school is hell, but in ‘Heathers’, it really is.
So, does ‘Heathers The Musical’ live up to its hype? Yes. Yes, it does.
Beg, borrow or steal a ticket before the show finishes its extended run on 24th November 2018 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.