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Heathers The Musical at Alexandra Theatre Birmingham

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Freelance journalist with a passion for theatre, the arts, food and books.
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Review of Heathers Musical on tour
The 1989 movie Heathers with Winona Ryder and Christian Slater was an iconic dark tale twisting humour around tough issues of teenage murder, suicide and bullying.

So it may seem a surprise, almost sacrilege, that it could be transformed into a musical. Can it possibly transfer all the simmering angst of heartthrob Slater and quirky black comedy onto the stage through song?

Heathers musical, Birmingham
Icons scenes from the movie are in the musical

Heathers The Musical has reached Birmingham at The Alexandra Theatre during its first UK tour after a successful stint in London's West End. Audiences can catch it for a week from September 21 until Saturday September 25.

It takes time to settle into the story and the first 20 minutes seem a little too High School Musical as we are introduced to well-meaning Veronica, who is struggling to fit in at school and decides to cower to the cool kids or 'Heathers' as they are known.

This trio of girls, all named Heather, are the mean girls of the school-bullying beauties who strike fear as they stalk the school corridors in matching tartan mini-skirts and blazers.

Responding to their every whim, Veronica's resentment of the Heathers builds up and turns deadly when egged on by the new guy in town, a mysterious strong-willed outsider called JD who Veronica immediately clicks with.

Heathers musical, Birmingham
Bright sets and costumes in Heathers The Musical

It helps that the two leads are well cast and have beautiful voices. Rebecca Wickes - stepping into Winona Ryder's shoes as Veronica - comes from previous roles in shows like Six The Musical.

Simon Gordon impresses the most as outsider JD. He is at the crux of this dark murderous story so it's crucial that he fits the bill. Which he does, he makes JD enigmatic and likeable despite his many flaws and has a lovely mellow sweetness to his voice.

This show also takes the black comedy from the original and runs with it, making it even more hilarious. That's especially so in scenes like the funeral of two jocks, believed to have killed themselves because they were secretly gay lovers. 'Song My Dead Gay Son' becomes an extrovert homage to gay rights and rainbow flags in the vein of something out of The Book Of Mormon.

Heathers musical, Birmingham
A scene featuring song My Dead Gay Son

This is just one of the areas where the story has been updated for 21st Century audiences and it feels refreshed and relevant to the 'Me Too' generation with a strong female heroine. It even touches on date rape, but never gets too serious - this is a musical after all.

It works partly because the songs are so strong. There's at least five tracks that stand out, which is good for a new musical. Tracks like 'Seventeen', 'Our Love Is God', 'Shine A Light' and 'Freeze Your Brain'.

It's a glossy affair associated with a big stage production that has spent plenty of money on sets and colourful costumes.

There's a lot of comedy too despite the taboo subjects of the storyline and director Andy Fickman has managed to keep the drama flowing well, building it up to a final crescendo.

Heathers musical, Birmingham
A musical full of black comedy

As a fan of the film, I realised that this musical isn't trying to replicate it exactly, but uses it as the basis of the story to develop something slightly different and exciting in the musicals world.

This isn't a jazz hands musical, Heathers is dark, twisted and has a soundtrack that reflects that. It will surprise you with its sassiness, fun and appealing ballads. It's a musical for a new generation.

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Why? See sassy new memorable musical
When: Until Sat September 25
Phone: 020 7206 1174
Where: Alexandra Theatre, Suffolk Queensway, Birmingham
Cost: From £13
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