If you haven’t already heard that Heathers the Musical has come to the UK then you must have spent the past few months living under a rock. This musical has become the definition of an ‘overnight’ smash hit. After bringing the cult 1988 film to the off-Broadway stage, Laurence O’Keefe’s and Kevin Murphy’s musical, originally staring current Mean Girls star Barrett Wilbert Weed as Veronica Sawyer, was immortalised in a soundtrack which developed a similar cult following. Now it is running at London’s The Other Palace with the west end and social media star Carrie Hope Fletcher in the role of Veronica.
Personally, I have loved the soundtrack for a long time but this was the first opportunity I’ve had to see the show live and see the dialogue and movement of the show. I’ve also been a long time fan of Fletcher’s and have been lucky enough to see her in nearly every role so I was intrigued to see her amp up the maturity of her more recent roles given the subject matter and tone of Heathers. Therefore I will mainly focus on reviewing this individual production of the show in terms of cast and production.
There are two things to note when reading this review. I will say this now that I saw a preview which means that the production team, cast and creatives could still make little adjustments ahead of their opening night on the 19th of June. Also, Heathers is currently completely sold out which means that unfortunately, you are currently not able to purchase a ticket ahead of time via The Other Palace website as you usually would before a show. However, I have seen people who can’t make the show selling their tickets on the Musical Theatre Appreciation Society Facebook page, which has wonderful admins making sure everything runs smoothly, or generally on Twitter. There is also a returns queue at the theatre if you feel like trying your luck there so please keep your eyes peeled.
Heathers is a show which relies on its cast. Also, as the songs are so iconic and already known to honestly be brilliant pieces of music, the cast is literally the most important part of any Heathers production. For me personally, there were two stand-out performances among a generally brilliant cast. Carrie Hope Fletcher as Veronica was everything I hoped she’d be for this generation of fans. She kept aspects of anger, hurt and a feistiness but ensured to highlight the conflicted and kind-hearted nature of Veronica more than these earlier aspects. She certainly encapsulated how young Veronica was which, compared to how much older everyone around her was acting, and rightly so, she really grounded the show in its message quite perfectly. There was also a lot more physical comedy than I was expecting especially for Carrie as Veronica but she set this up directly from the top so it never felt forced for her interpretation of Veronica.
The next performer who truly stood out for me was Jodie Steele as Heather Chandler. I am in love with her portrayal of Chandler. She looked perfect in her costume, all of which are beautiful especially for the Heathers and Veronica, and her poise and literal elegance made her character completely believable whilst pulling off a blend of comedic and elegant choreography brilliantly. She stood out so much that I simply wanted more and more of her. Similarly to Carrie’s Veronica, she had a lot more physical comedy than I expected but her actions during ‘Me Inside of Me’ had me in stitches and I loved it. When she came together with Sophie Isaacs as a McNamara who I was very impressed by as a Heather truly full of heart and T’Shan Williams’ cool and calculated Duke, ‘Candy Store’ was literal Heathers heaven. Luckily they performed this number with full choreography and costume at West End Live so I highly recommend that you catch that video.
Every member of this cast got their stand-out solo moments and each of them truly stood up to their moment and impressed there weren’t any low points. The brilliant singing just kept coming and coming. I will admit that the set did become quite pastel behind these brilliant singers. There were certainly some songs where I wanted more from the staging in order to create the final impact especially during ‘Meant to Be Mine’. However, as my focus was on the soloist throughout these songs this didn’t hinder them the set simply didn’t heighten the song alongside the soloist. However, with a cast as amazing as this, they truly stood out in their own right and songs like ‘Kindergarten Boyfriend’ actually stood out even more both because of Jenny O’leary’s gorgeous voice and the simple staging which ensured that the set worked well to create a stand out moment.
The main point of excitement for me, other than the cast, was seeing Heather Duke’s brand new solo added into this production. I actually really loved it as T’shan Williams ensured to shock with her excitement and power but remain true to the cool and cunning aspects of Duke. There was also a surprise during this song which had my jaw on the floor with its smooth execution and it was truly amazing.
However, Duke’s solo brings me onto the main criticism I have with this show. As much as I love the band of this show, and what they represent in theatre-land, the technical side of the sound mixing was quite distracting. The band were quite loud compared to the soloists so when they were combined with the ensemble singing something different to the soloist it became hard to decipher specific lines and phrases during some songs. Duke’s solo was impacted by this the most as it is the one song that fans can’t go and listen to after the show so that first impression really matters. However, as I saw a preview I’m hoping that this will improve as the show runs.
Anyone with a ticket to this show is truly lucky. The experience of going to see this show and being part of this audience is truly unique. Lots of people go dressed up, either subtly or full on, and I even joined in sporting my red t-shirt and red scrunchie. The atmosphere created by the audience through the cheering and support for this show is something truly special. I cannot overstate how much of an experience going to see this show is and you need to soak up every moment of it.
I’m so happy that this cast and this show has found outstanding success by selling out their run and I really hope that this leads to a future for Heathers in the UK. Especially in the current climate of so many shows announcing that they are closing, it’s lovely to see such a meaningful show find success.
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