Thank goodness my years at the Newton Hall Grammar Technical High School, in Hull, weren’t as angst-ridden and dangerous as those “enjoyed” by the pupils of Westerberg High School, in Ohio, US.
When the energetic cast of Heathers The Musical took to the Hull New Theatre stage on Tuesday evening, their actions shed light on the likes of bulimia, latent homosexuality, suicide, bullying and murder.
Phew! There was never a dull moment, making my schooldays seem dull and boring.
I was new to Heathers, but a large chunk of the audience whooped and hollered loudly on many occasions throughout – showing, not only their appreciation, but also their knowledge of the storyline.
I admired their enthusiasm, but, sadly, couldn’t join in as (and I’m sure I was in the minority here, judging by the standing ovation as the show finished), the sound levels were too much for my ears to grasp what was being said and/or sung.
A few decibels lower and it might have seemed less “screechy” to my delicate ears.
But, as I mentioned, judging by the reaction of the extremely happy audience at the show’s end, I was probably the only one in the well-attended theatre to feel that way.
That’s my only grouch and, strangely enough, it didn’t deter from my enjoyment as the very talented participants on stage, through their actions alone, clearly told the tale.
And what a tale.
It’s 1989 and Veronica Sawyer (Jenna Innes) is a pupil, not very popular, quite dowdily dressed, who dreams of being in with the in crowd – the Heathers.
The three Heathers – Heather Chandler (Verity Thompson), Heather Duke (Elise Zavou) and Heather McNamara (Billie Bowman) – dress in short skirts with matching knee-high socks and jackets. Their word is law at the school, and the “head” Heather – the blonde Ms Chandler – rules the roost.
Veronica begs to be in their clique, eventually dressing like them and cruelly abandoning her best friend, Martha Dunnstock (Kingsley Morton) in her pursuit of “belonging”.
Things take a very dangerous turn when Veronica befriends and falls in love with oddball pupil, Jason “JD” Dean (Jacob Fowler).
After they meet, the high-school musical atmosphere we’d been witnessing took a dark turn. Eventually, Veronica decides enough is enough – but not before three people are murdered and one blows himself up.
It’s a happy ending for two old friends – not so happy for plenty of others; although one unlikely couple do find a love of sorts in a very amusing scene.
The colourful on-stage shenanigans didn’t need a similarly colourful stage setting, and the brick walls, windows, doors of the school, for the main part, were enough.
Lights flashed at times and music from the Heathers Band, added to the energy – according to the programme, 22 (new to me) songs were sung on the night.
All of the above-mentioned cast were perfect for their roles and I must mention two others who were fundamental to the story – Kurt Kelly (Alex Woodward) and Ram Sweeney (Morgan Jackson) – who, as cocky Jack-the-lads were responsible for many laugh-out-loud moments.
My years at Newton Hall were definitely boring compared to Westerberg High, but at least I came out alive.
Running until Saturday, September 30th, 2023; 7.30pm nightly with 2.30pm matinees on Wednesday, 27th, Thursday, 28th and Saturday, 30th. Tickets cost from £18. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Age guidance 14+
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 26th September 2023
North West End UK Rating: