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Heathers the musical

Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy

Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills

Theatr Clwyd

March 28th to April 1, 2023; 2 hrs 15 mins

(also in Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool, Hull, York, Bradford and Blackpool. See here for full schedule)

The Heathers cast in full dance mode. All pics: Pamela Raith Photography
The Heathers cast in full dance mode. All pics: Pamela Raith Photography

Imagine that, as a teenager, you had the ability to remove from existence those who annoy you most.

This is the central theme of musical Heathers, based on the 1989 film of the same name, in its time a widely well-regarded cult movie.

Call it Grease with Fangs. There is similar characterisation and there's a stereotypical American high school scenario of bitchy girls, shunned outsiders and overly testosterone-charged adolescent males. The difference between this and other teen movies is that in this one, someone decided the best way to deal with the objectionable students was to eliminate them and dress up the deaths as suicide...

The show pushes plenty of boundaries and has some surprising moments, including quite a graphic scene of intercourse, and a gay kiss from two characters you expected to be homophobic.

There are some well-staged scenes too: the first fight between character JD (last night stand-in Tom Dickerson, very good) and two jocks has a clever freeze-frame/slo-mo section (so character Veronica - Jenna Innes - can explain things to the audience); and in the second act there is some nice interaction with the front row of the stalls when another plot-point is revealed.

Does the film translate to the stage well? The production is excellent and the performances all-round are compelling.

The musical is described as a dark comedy, and there are plenty of comic moments as well as more profound layers, all of which combine to hold an audience's attention.

This musical draws out teenage angst really well, whether it is the dilemma to fit in or stand out, to be loyal or popular, the shallowness of appearance, to work or to have fun - not forgetting issues of sexuality, teenage suicide and mental health.

Heathers makes some valid points - such as who are we to judge whose life is worthwhile and whose not; and that actions have consequences. Yes, it also offers the usual homilies about being true to yourself and having personal integrity, but what teen drama doesn't?

The cast got a well-deserved standing ovation from a packed audience; it could have been for the excellent choreography or the dark humour or for plenty of other reasons, but whether in your teens or long past them, Heathers offers lots to enjoy.

Tickets and information here


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