‘Heathers the Musical’ (Edinburgh Playhouse) | Review by Lewis C. Baird

‘Heathers the Musical’ has finally arrived in Edinburgh on the final week of its debut UK tour. Based on the classic 1989 film, set in Westerberg High; which is ruled by a shoulder-padded, scrunchie-wearing junta: Heather, Heather and Heather, the hottest and cruelest girls in all of Ohio. But misfit Veronica Sawyer rejects their evil regime for a new boyfriend, the dark and sexy stranger J.D., who plans to put the Heathers in their place – six feet under. 

Rebecca Wickes is incredible as Veronica Sawyer. The wit, sass, and sheer presence this actress brings to the role is jaw-dropping. Vocally this is a stunning performance, which is filled with energy and so much power, especially during ‘I Say No’, which unsurprisingly made the Playhouse erupt with applause. Rebecca consistently gives a true performance that makes Veronica seem so believable, which is very impressive in this dark and wacky comedy.  

Simon Gordon is dark, edgy and horrifying as Jason ‘J.D’ Dean. Simon’s portrayal of the psychopathic killer is one that is unpredictable, and yet the audience reason with the character over his traumatic past. Simon’s vocals are exquisite and perfectly partner Wickes’ Veronica during ‘Our Love is God’. Simon’s slight devious portrayal of J.D is perfectly energized and very believable. This is yet another superb performance for this debut touring production. 

Photo – Pamela Raith

Maddison Firth is sassy, devilish and scene-stealing as Heather Chandler. You know you’re in for a wild ride as soon as Maddison unleashes her powerhouse vocals during ‘Candy Store’, with some outstanding riffs thrown in for good measure to truly blow the audience’s minds. Needless to say, it worked. This role is presented as a villainous adversary to Veronica, but as the story goes on, we begin to see Maddison soften Heather’s persona, which works brilliantly and draws the audience in even more to this complex character.

Merryl Ansah and Lizzy Parker as Heather Duke and Heather McNamara, both brilliantly encompass the mean girls, following their fearless leader. Merryl as Heather Duke, shows a true wannabe, who rises from a young woman with overconfidence to someone who is a leader, it’s a great journey to behold. With Lizzy as Heather McNamara, the vulnerability she shows in the latter half of act two is very believable and the humour also supplied perfectly dilutes the serious issues explored in the character’s journey. These are two great and thoroughly entertaining performances. 

Photo – Pamela Raith

Georgina Hagen is a delight as Ms. Fleming and Veronica’s Mum. Georgina is a musical theatre veteran, and it truly does shine through in her two supporting performances. There’s warmth and humour present within both of these characters that hooks the audience, which is impressive with the little stage time Georgina is given. Georgina’s performance in ‘Shine a Light’ is bubbly and great fun to watch. Also, her small interactions with the audience really does bring some fun hilarity into the mix, raising the energy in the middle section of Act Two. 

Mhairi Angus as Martha Dunnstock brings us a stunning performance in this musical which is bursting with satire and farcical scenes. The audience latches onto Martha with the purity and kindness that Mhairi portrays. Mhairi’s performance of ‘Kindergarden Boyfriend’ is beautiful, with her lovely vocals. The musical number really brings an emotional beat to the fast-paced chaos that ensues with this musical and it’s a very endearing performance to watch from this young actress. 

Liam Doyle and Rory Phelan’s portrayals of Kurt Kelly and Ram Sweeney are laced with comic nuances while also showing the true seedy undertones to their actions. There are some very serious issues explored with these characters, however with the lighthearted approach these actors have chosen to take, it makes it a much less sombre or uncomfortable affair for the audience. The comedy works very well and the farcical behaviour truly tickles the audience. Also, it’s safe to say these two actors are lapping up the fact they’re half-naked for most of the production, and the audience definitely were not complaining. 

Photo – Pamela Raith

Andy Brady (Kurt’s Dad, Veronica’s Dad and Principal Gowan) and Kurt Kansley (Ram’s Dad, Big Bud Dean and Coach Ripper) are fantastic at their adaptability in covering several different characters within this production. However, we all know the highlight of both of these fabulous actor’s performances is during ‘My Dead Gay Son’, which is a hysterically funny musical number that cued laughter to ripple through the playhouse. 

The ensemble in this production add energy, chaos and hilarity to the school setting of Westerberg High. The ensemble are as follows; Benjamin Karran, Sam Stones, Callum Connolly, Rhiane Drummond, Bayley Hart, Daisy Twells and May Tether. 

This musical is one that has a fabulous second act, bursting with superb musical numbers and a truly engaging story. However, the book, music and lyrics written by Kevin Murphy & Laurence O’Keefe falls flat at some points in the first act. There are moments where the script feels slightly rushed and one or two of the musical numbers sound rather generic. That being said, the story at the heart of this musical is totally different from anything that is currently playing in the UK and it is mostly bursting with creativity. This production in particular embraces the cult following and plays on the quirkiness of the original motion picture. Andy Fickman’s direction brings this dark comedy to life with such colour and confidence. It is clear that Andy has relied on the talents of his cast to lift and drive the story. This reliance on the casting works magnificently, the cast shine and translate these characters fabulously to the stage. 

Gary Lloyds contemporary choreography lifts and energizes each musical number with apt movement that truly fits each musical performance’s tone. David Sheild’s design of Westerberg high school really set’s the scene for 1980s Ohio, with a realistic-looking set and bright costume. This is all lifted by Ben Cracknell’s superbly colourful and dynamic lighting design. 

‘Heathers the Musical’ transforms a 1980s cult film into a must-see theatre production. The cast of this production are one of the best currently touring the UK, they perform the hell out of this musical to bring audiences possibly the best version of the show. How Very! 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Honey, what you waiting for? Get your tickets for Heathers the Musical’s final week at the Edinburgh Playhouse now!

https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/heathers-the-musical/edinburgh-playhouse/

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