Heathers The Musical at The Alexandra, Birmingham - Review

Heathers The Musical at The Alexandra, Birmingham - Review


Posted 2023-05-18 by Andy Colemanfollow

Tue 16 May 2023 - Sat 20 May 2023

I last saw Heathers The Musical when it visited The Alexandra in 2021 – but I don’t recall it receiving as raucous a welcome as the 2023 version did on its opening night in Birmingham. The auditorium was buzzing before curtain up, with many audience members dressed to match the cast. Every song was greeted with whoops and hollers, and there was a huge cheer when the three Heathers made their entrance. Could Heathers The Musical be the new Rocky Horror Show, a cult classic that runs and runs?

It's a strange production to receive such adulation, given that its themes include teenage murder, suicide, bullying and date rape, all set to music. Based on the 1989 film, starring Christian Slater and Winona Ryder, it tells the story of angst-ridden Westerberg High School pupil Veronica Sawyer who, in order to become popular, becomes friends with Heather Chandler, Heather Duke and Heather McNamara. These three are, frankly, bullies and Veronica quickly realises she should not be hanging out with them. Influenced by new boy, Jason ‘JD’ Dean, she vows to turn the tables on them, and that’s when the show moves from High School Musical into much darker territory.

The subject matter may be gloomy, and possibly controversial, but Heathers The Musical has a number of plus points.

Jenna Innes is centre stage in Heathers The Musical. Picture: Pamela Raith

Firstly, the performances are first class. Jenna Innes, previously seen in Les Misérables, is excellent as Veronica. Her voice is strong, and she soon has the audience rooting for her. Opposite her, Jacob Fowler as JD is dark and mysterious – and just a little deranged. Jacob won the BBC1 show, Little Mix: The Search, with his band, Since September, and subsequently supported Little Mix on tour.

Jacob Fowler as JD and Jenna Innes as Veronica. Picture: Pamela Raith

Verity Thompson is a suitably nasty Heather Chandler, with understudies Summer Priest and Eliza Bowden (making her professional stage debut) taking the roles of Heathers Duke and McNamara. The other standout actor on the night was Katie Paine as headteacher Ms Fleming. In the second act she breaks the fourth wall and engages with the audience – a very popular move with the Heathers fans.

Katie Paine with the pupils of Westerberg High. Picture: Pamela Raith

The second positive feature is the music. The pop/rock tunes by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe have great hooks and some very clever lyrics. And let’s give a nod to the usually unsung heroes of musicals, the band. Unseen throughout, they deserve a namecheck – musical director and keyboardist Will Joy, guitarist Neil Morgan, bassist Ali McMath, drummer Adam ‘Twenny’ Sheffield, trumpeter Adam Linsley and woodwind player Andrew Dickinson.

The three Heathers, with matching lights. Picture: Pamela Raith

Thirdly, the staging and lighting add another dimension to the show. The scene changes are nifty and the lighting shows imagination. There are times when the spotlights match the colours of the Heathers’ outfits: red, yellow and green. At other moments, lights beam from the stage onto the auditorium, which helps the audience feel part of what’s occurring on stage. Their appreciation was shown with a standing ovation at the end. It was richly deserved.

#performing _arts

78659 - 2023-05-17 11:49:40


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