It’s Westerbrook High, where “cliques rule, jocks dominate and all the popular girls are called Heather.” There’s teen suicide, eating disorders, date rape and high school bullying around every corner. Into this toxic mix comes Veronica (Jenna Innes) and a weird new kid JD (Jacob Fowler) who, in the words of the movie blurb “gives a body count to the teenage angst”.
While not exactly sanitising the story there are shifted plot lines for the sensibilities of a 21st Century audience, but it’s not to the detriment of the story and the easy breezy way that the near the knuckle themes are tackled is pitch perfect. The sold-out audience are fired up from the start and hang on every word and note throughout.
It rips along at a cracking pace, with little faff and no filler and bulldozes the audience along with it. All this wouldn’t be possible without an outstanding cast. Jenna Innes is power personified, both vocally and in her acting choices, her voice is stunning throughout. So too is Jacob Fowler as the creepy, charismatic, outsider JD. The “lip gloss Gestapo” of the three Heathers: Verity Thompson, Elise Zavou and Billie Bowman are just excellent. There’s not a weak link in the entire ensemble and the choreography and vocals are executed with an impressive cleanness from start to end.
The simple set is highly effective and it transforms fast and with ease to add atmosphere to the piece, Ben Cracknell’s lighting is gorgeous too.
Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy’s musical adaptation of Daniel Waters film lacks some of the bite of the gritty original which was a few shades darker, and while it has a different tone to the movie, it is one helluva musical. Standing on its own with its head held high.
It would be churlish to nit-pick the differences between the original movie and its musical adaptation, they are two very different beasts, it is after all over 30 years since the teen movie hit the cinemas and some changes need to be made for a modern audience and for a stage setting. The one and only fault is that at times the sound levels of the band were a little too dominating – a hard thing to be with such strong voices.
This is probably one of the most successful adaptations of the past few years. If you can get a ticket, then do yourself a favour, don’t hesitate, get one, you can thank me later.
Runs until 1 July 2023 | Image: Pamela Raith