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Showing at Malvern Theatres in Worcestershire this week, Heathers the Musical is an extremely dark comedy based on the cult film from the late 1980s. Set in a high school, it covers hard-hitting topics like rape, suicide, high-school shootings and murder. These contrast with catchy tunes, funny catchphrases and amusing scenes. The Heathers is not your average musical, but if you’re up for an emotional roller coaster that gets you tapping your toes, this one’s for you.
Heathers the Musical at Malvern Theatres: The story
In case you’re not aware, the film “Heathers” was released in 1988, starring Christian Slater and Winona Ryder. The musical follows a similar story-line although not exactly the same. At Westerburg High School, the popular crowd are embodied by a trio of girls, all called Heather. The leader of the pack is Heather Chandler. Dressed all in red, she rules the roost both within her friendship group and among the rest of the year group.
When outsider Veronica is accepted as an honorary Heather, she is torn between being one of the popular crowd and staying true to her own morals. The arrival of new boy JD in the class changes the dynamic again, with Veronica drawn to his apparent ethics. They quickly become a couple and JD’s infatuation with Veronica takes a dark turn.
Determined to defend Veronica against anybody who dares to upset her, JD sets out to put the world to rights in his own inimitable way. Three deaths and two attempted suicides later, Veronica has realised that JD’s personal code of conduct is somewhat different to other people’s. Far from being shuffled off stage after death, the three murdered characters come back to haunt Veronica – dressed in the clothes they died in. Which for two of them is not a lot.
This is the cast list as per the programme at Malvern. I haven’t heard of any changes to the cast.
- Veronica Sawyer: Jenna Innes
- Jason Dean (JD): Jacob Fowler
- Heather Chandler: Verity Thompson
- Heather Duke: Elise Zavou
- Heather McNaamara: Billie Bowman
- Ms Fleming / Veronica’s Mum: Katie Paine
- Martha Dunnstock: Kingsley Morton
- Kurt Kelly: Alex Woodward
- Ram Sweeney: Morgan Jackson
- Ram’s Dad / Big Bud Dean / Coach Ripper: Connor McFarlane
- Kurt’s Dad / Veronica’s Dad / Principal Gowan: Jay Bryce
- Preppy Stud / Officer: Markus Sodergren
- Beleaguered Geek: Tom Dickerson
- Hipster Dork / Offiicer: Liam Dean
- Young Republicanette: Summer Priest
- Stoner Chick: Maeve Byrne
- New Wave Party Girl: Eliza Bowden
- Drama Club Drama Queen: Eleanor Walsh
- Midwestern Surfer Punk: Lizzie Emery
Heathers the Musical at Malvern Theatres: The verdict
I’ve read quite a few reviews of Heathers the Musical over the past few years, both in the West End and on tour. It’s safe to say that this production is a bit like marmite. You love it or you hate it. If you are easily offended, this one’s not for you. However, if you are able to take it in the tongue in cheek way it in which it’s meant, the show is a lot of fun. Whilst there is clearly a lot of bullying and bigotry, the joke is very much on the perpetrators.
The cast launch into the comically camp song “My Dead Gay Son” at the start of the second half. For an audience expecting the sombre funeral of two campus shooting victims this was unexpectedly funny. The majority of the music is far more upbeat than I would have expected for such a dark production.
The cast were all fantastic, as you would anticipate when watching a touring West End musical. Incredible singing voices and believable acting really made the show. A small cast successfully portrayed multiple roles. Kingsley Morton put on a particularly brilliant performance as beleaguered Martha Dunstock. Elize Zavou’s mean girl Heather Duke was noteworthy too, she absolutely nailed the high school bully character.
The only slight issue we had with this show was that much of the story is told within the songs and in some of the numbers, we couldn’t hear the words. This was particularly problematic when Jenna Innes as Veronica was singing in the dramatic numbers where the band was loud. Hopefully the balancing will be better on subsequent days and it wouldn’t have been a problem for anyone who already knows the story or the songs. Having never seen the film or the musical, I did find it took some concentration to catch the words and work out what was going on.
Heathers the Musical is at Malvern Theatres from Tuesday 25th to Saturday 29th July 2023. After that, it moves on to The Hawth in Crawley from 1st August. Further tour information is on The Heathers website.
Tickets are available from the Malvern Theatres website. I don’t think it is completely sold out, but it was absolutely packed to the rafters when we went, so if you want to watch it I’d advise booking straight away.
Two hours and 30 minutes including an interval.
Heathers the Musical is not suitable for anybody under 14. This is the advisory age on the theatre website and I completely agree. Older teens will cope with it fine, but there are a couple of sex scenes as well as the murders and suicides so it’s not one to go and watch with young children or your nan.