Heathers The Musical Review | Palace Theatre | Manchester
Heathers was uncovering the unique ecosystem of high school well before high school movies became a genre in their own right. Now its cutting-edge 1989 film has been remodelled as a musical comedy and audiences get to relive all the cult classic lines live on the Palace theatre stage.
With a fresh collaboration that returns audiences to Westerburg high, Heathers dark and surreal dramedy has become a compellingly murderous musical. The show's music and lyrics come from Laurence O'Keefe (Legally Blonde: The Musical) and Kevin Murphy (Desperate Housewives), who mould their cruel and quirky humour into this new laidback production. Including the songs Dead Girl Walking and My Dead Gay Son, you can form a few reasonable assumptions about what to expect from this duo’s creation.
We follow Veronica Sawyerthe (Rebecca Wickes) as she moves from English Lit class to calculating the human cost of high school. Having built a shaky friendship with the schools three most popular girls, all named Heather, Veronica suddenly finds herself fending off their threats to destroy her after making too many unfashionable social faux pas. Veronica, looking for vigilante justice with her mysterious new boyfriend, Jason (Simon Gordon), decide to take a page out of the Bonnie & Clyde handbook, making her way through the sorority and anyone else who stands in her way.
In a colour-coded world where parents are only a source of food, shelter and allowance, these teens don their best power suits to take on the issues of suicide, sex and violence. The original film is a tightly plotted, darkly funny tale that was apparently awaiting a bright musical resurrection. While this show will remind audiences of Heathers timeless presence and its matchless take on the high school turf, the musical production dons too many colourful layers. Leaning away from the original storyline to add a lighter balance to its cruel female leads, the show injects songs like Our Love Is God, which is a line from the original film but uncharacteristically optimistic when spun into an extensive love ballad. Nevertheless, with vibrant direction from Andy Fickman keeping the primary focus on fun, it is easy to forgive the shows diluted take on the deviant portrayal of the world inhabited by high schoolers.
Little damage is also done to its fierce performances and the fabulous lines of dialogue from the Heathers which are encrusted into numerous songs. Wickes’s delicate take on Veronica as a naive nerd is an unexpected edition and Maddison Firth (Red Heather) does a hilarious job hurling insults without a hint of remorse.
Cruel indulgences aside, this musical isn’t breaking any new ground, but before there was Clueless (1995) or 13 Reasons Why (2017), there was Heathers, and the live show is an entertaining reincarnation. Sidestepping its most outrageous scenes to focus on the emotional and maddening tole of high school, this production is a shady musical born from some truly evil source material.