Thursday, October 6

Heathers The Musical – The Other Palace

The wickedly funny, energetic and chaotic Heathers is back in the West End and for its second run at The Other Palace Theatre. Produced by Paul Taylor-Mills and Bill Kenwright, Heathers The Musical made its record-breaking box office debut in 2018 for a limited season. Re-opening in 2021, the show kickstarted the post-pandemic theatre recovery period.

A high-school classic, Heathers stars Veronica Sawyer (Erin Caldwell), a girl simply trying to fit-in at high school and make it through to graduation. She joins the infamous Heathers, the school’s lead clique who are beautiful but impossibly cruel. When new rebel, Jason Dean/JD (Nathanael Landskroner) joins Westerberg High, Veronica find herself in a toxic whirlwind romance resulting in lies, deceit and much worse…

The show begins with the song ‘Beautiful’, in which Veronica details the high school hierarchy system in the form of a diary entry. The complete cast is on stage for a punchy opening, with each clique, Veronica’s childhood friend Martha (Lydia Eliza Roberts) and most importantly, the Heathers being introduced. Caldwell showcases her clean and controlled projection, instantly captivating the audience with her goofy but relatable portrayal of Veronica.

The Heathers first showcase their synergy in the illustrious ‘Candy Store’, led by Heather Chandler (Madison Firth). An upbeat, choreographed number shows the power imbalance between the Heathers and Chandler’s clear distaste for Heather Duke (Vivian Panka). The infamous “Shut up Heather!” followed by Chandler’s high-energy riff is always a highlight and an opportunity for Chandler to shine. Reprising her role, and following the original West End performance by Jodie Steele, Firth had big shoes to fill, which she did so admirably. Her performance as Chandler was domineering, but she excelled in her comedic value at later moments during the show.

Previous Cast – Photo: Pamela Raith

Panka did some great characterisation work with Heather Duke, noticeably changing her posture during her character arc in the anticipated ‘Never Shut Up Again’. Panka showcased her stunning vocal range and smooth riffs, but her focus on the vocals affected her energy and her ability to be perfectly in unison with those on stage. Heather McNamara (Jasmine Beel) had her moment on stage with ‘Lifeboat’, depicting a deeper, slightly unhinged side to McNamara. Beel’s facial acting throughout was dramatized well to portray McNamara and the character’s development.

The dynamic duo, Kurt Kelly (Tobias Turley) and Ram Sweeney (Brandon Gale) stole the stage each time they made an appearance, the audience left cackling. Their chemistry was unmistakeable, the boys bouncing off each other effortlessly and their facial expressions providing fantastic comedy, particularly in ‘Fight For Me’ and ‘You’re Welcome’.

The second Act opens perfectly with the hilarious and slightly scandalous ‘Dead Gay Son’, performed by Kurt and Ram’s fathers (Ryan Bennett and Stuart Turner). After the sombre ending to the first Act, the audience are immediately sucked back into the action on stage with this light-hearted and upbeat number, with many laughs to be had. Closely followed by ‘Shine A Light’, where Ms Fleming (Ashleigh Harvey) performs an eccentric and chaotic form of group therapy, with artistic surprises, this section of the show is perfect comedic relief before the action ensues.

Landskroner gave a convincing performance as the mysterious JD, but at moments there was a lack of charm and depth to his character. However, he portrayed JD as a force to be reckoned with, making Veronica’s ‘I Say No’ all the more powerful. Caldwell encapsulated the anger towards JD and the deep sorrow towards her classmates. She is perfectly controlled during this number, belting naturally but also reigning her voice in for the quiet, emotional moments. At times, the chemistry between Veronica and JD did not feel palpable, their relationship feeling underdeveloped.

The ensemble are a huge part of the show, their energy and dedication tangible on stage, with talent being showcased left, right and centre. Their ability to change and adapt throughout is commendable and as performers, they are the true heart of the show.

This dark comedy, based on the teen cult classic of 1988 has received a huge following since its West End debut in 2018 and continues to engage audiences with its rock-inspired soundtrack and nods to the ‘80s. While some references may be seen as controversial in today’s society, they are pertinent to the show’s period, provoking thought amongst audiences. The show succeeds in addressing darker themes and in raising awareness, with artistic choices both shocking the audience and provoking positive reactions.

Heathers The Musical is currently playing at The Other Palace until 19th February 2023, tickets can be purchased from: https://theotherpalace.co.uk/heathers/

Trigger warnings: contains strong language, dark issues, adult themes and acted violence

Reviewer: Maani Way

Reviewed: 13th September 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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