Danny Coleman-Cooke reviews Heathers the musical based on the film of the same name now playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
If anyone has shown how to adapt a cult classic, it’s Laurence O’Keefe. He was part of the trio behind the joyous Legally Blonde, the only musical I have seen that improves on its source material.
Shortly afterwards, he co-adapted Heathers with Kevin Murphy and based on this evidence, he’s nailed it again.
Based on a 1989 film, Heathers is the story of conflicted student Veronica, who has joined the bullying clique of ‘Heathers’ for an easier life. However, she becomes besotted with the charismatic and brooding JD, who has plans to wipe out the school and wreak vengeance on the bullies who go there.
It is an not an easy musical to adapt; the film is legendary for its darkness and its challenging themes, but this production charts a middle ground between riotous fun and cynical dystopian portrayals of American high school.
The script is packed with catty one-liners and teenage snark, whilst the music is witty and memorable, all brought to life through a fantastic cast.
For me, Jamie Muscato was the stand-out performer as JD, capable of being menacing and full of rage, whilst also possessing razor sharp comic timing.
Carrie Hope Fletcher also excels as Veronica, in what could be a breakout role for her.
The Heathers all have great fun with their despicable characters and credit to lighting designer Ben Cracknell for giving them their own costume co-ordinate spotlights.
Jodie Steele is magnetic as the group leader Heather Chandler, inspiring both contempt and hilarity from the audience in equal measure.
Whilst the cast was excellent across the board, the use of middle aged actors to fill in as students during crowd scenes was slightly offputting; surely at West End prices they have the money to boost the ensemble?
Despite being set in the 80s, this feels like an extremely timely and neccessary production, with school violence in America now posing a far greater problem than they did when it was released.
The most enjoyable experience of the night was the younger-than-average crowd, which was in the raptures on the night I attended. Had they seen the original film or were they inspired to come by YouTube sensation Carrie Hope Fletcher?
No matter, it is fantastic to see a younger audience engaged with the theatre and engaging with such weighty issues. More of these productions and we will soon have fewer Heathers and more Hope Fletchers.