Saturday, April 13

Heathers – Leeds Grand

Take a trip to Westerburg High School to join the class of 2021 on a twisted tale of romance, fun and a bit of bitchiness too – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Heathers, the dark comedy/rock musical first hit the stage in 2010 in New York following and based on the great cult classic movie of the same name starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. The modern musical begins its UK and Ireland tour at Leeds Grand Theatre.

If you’re not already familiar with the soundtrack I urge you to go and listen to it. Written by the award-winning team Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy, the music could not suit the cult classic story any better: with heart wrenching ballads and vibrant ensemble numbers, the soundtrack doesn’t have a bad song and promises to have you singing them for days after.

The story follows Veronica Sawyer (played by Rebecca Wickes), a nobody who dreams of better days, as she drags her way through high school – until the day she joins the beautiful Heathers, and her dream of popularity comes true. However, when she meets mysterious recluse JD, it teaches her that it might kill to be a nobody but its murder being a somebody.

After a few technical difficulties and a show restart we entered Westerburg high. Rebecca is an utterly brilliant Veronica, although not how I had originally imagined the character in my head: her nerdy yet cute demeanour combined with easy comedic acting allowed for a magnificent performance with stunning vocals.

The entrance of the almighty Heathers is everything you could hope for. Maddison Firth as Heather Chandler, Merryl Ansah as Heather Duke and Lizzy Parker as Heather McNamara worked very well as a trio, their voices working perfectly and presenting amazing harmonies that will give you chills.

Maddison seemed much more suited to the fun, ditsy personality she was able to bring to Heather Chandler’s character following the death of the more stern and boisterously bossy Heather.

Lizzy Parker blew me away with her rendition of ‘Lifeboat’ in act two, her effortless swing from the calm and collected ballet to the powerful, dramatic chorus had me stunned, a beautifully moving song.

I truly enjoyed the choreography by Gary Lloyd. As a soundtrack with quite a few upbeat numbers the shows dance numbers perpetrate the joy of 80’s combined with modern styles to provide choreography that simply puts a smile on your face. Made great by a massively talented ensemble whose individual characteristics shone through from start to finish.

Simon Gordon as Jason ‘JD’ Parker was perfection. Not only did he instantly make you fall in love with his dark charm through the stunning performance of ‘Freeze Your Brain’, but his gradual change to the shadier JD also felt innate, natural and gripping. Rebecca and Simon worked well as a pair, bringing natural chemistry and some stunning harmonies throughout. But ‘Seventeen’ was astounding. Their voices so in tune with each other, allowing for those softer moments as well as the more powerful to shine through, I thought this song couldn’t be topped…

How wrong I was. Rebecca’s performance of ‘I Say No’, a song that had never previous been a favourite of mine, absolutely blew me away. A formidable song requiring a powerful voice, which Rebecca displayed with ease, as we watch Veronica make her defining moment in Act 2.

Comedy duo Kurt Kelly and Ram Sweeney are played by Liam Doyle and Rory Phelan and there could not be a better pair to play these lovable (for lack of a better word) idiots, both had brilliant comedy timing and lovely voices (that I wish we got to hear more of).

The musical has deep underlying themes of teen suicide and even a potentially uncomfortable date rape scene, and features swearing throughout, so despite the pop-rock songs that would appeal to a younger teenage audience, it is more suited for the older teens and mature eyes. It really doesn’t make you miss high school.

With a brilliantly clever soundtrack, I didn’t know what to expect when seeing the show brought to life, live on stage for the first time, and I was not disappointed in the slightest.

Heathers is pure joy and laughter with a sprinkle of darkness. The talent of the whole cast provides a quality show, from individual performances to ensemble, the sheer talent on stage is worth a trip in itself.

“Honey, what you waiting for” go and see Heathers!

Reviewer: Alison Ruck

Reviewed: 9th August 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★