Saturday, June 10

Heathers the Musical – Theatr Clwyd

More often than not, I find that film-into-musical adaptations do not quite hit the mark on a number of counts, often seeming to have been created by piggybacking off an established brand for revenue purposes alone. Yet last night’s performance of Heathers: The Musical felt fresh, vibrant and pleasing even to die-hard fanatics of the original 80s cult film. To borrow a quote from the musical itself, this show really was ‘Big Fun’.

I had the pleasure of watching this show during its most recent UK tour, in one of my favourite venues, Mold’s Theatr Clwyd. I felt this a very apt setting for the production – a space where the show’s filling set can be appreciated to its fullest on a slightly larger-scale stage, but which also offers an intimate ambience, allowing the audience to be involved and engaged throughout.

Our leading lady, Veronica Sawyer, was played by the delightful Jenna Innes, who successfully absorbed the audience into her character’s journey of progression. Following suit was Tom Dickenson in the lead role of Jason Dean (more commonly known as JD). I had the privilege of watching Tom during his debut performance in this role, which certainly did not disappoint. This character’s songs would be a mean feat for any time-served performer within the world of musical theatre, demanding killer vocals and an ability to convincingly convey the harshest of emotions. Without a shadow of a doubt, Tom produced this for the audience with prowess.

Heather Chandler, Heather Duke and Heather McNamara were played by Verity Thompson, Elise Zavou and Billie Bowman respectively – and wow, did this trio deliver! While shining in their individual given songs, their powerhouse ensemble when singing together was particularly apparent in the hit song ‘Candy Store’. This number required fierce vocals and characterisation accompanied by sleek movement. These three accomplished performers definitely had the energy and stamina needed for these roles.

Photo: Pamela Raith

Other standout roles include Kingsley Morton as Martha Dunnstock (AKA Martha Dumptruck), as well as Kurt Kelly and Ram Sweeney, played by Alex Woodward and Morgan Jackson respectively. These characters contributed to the smooth progression of the show and provided substance to the plot. Mrs Fleming, played by Katie Paine, was also a joyous surprise, whose delivery of the hilarious musical cameo ‘Shine A Light’ concluded with full splits, which was met by the obvious glee and uproar of the audience.

The lighting (by Ben Cracknell) was nothing short of phenomenal. Pivotal moments such the eruption of as JD’s explosive bomb and the audience participation segment during ‘Shine A Light’ were created by strobe lighting, vivid colourings and perfectly timed follow-spots.

The monstrous, moving Heathers set once again proved it could be transported and adapted to any theatre, succeeding in filling the performance space substantially and creating immediate impact. The set comprised of various double-sided walls, manoeuvred faultlessly and smoothly by the cast to create various settings within minuscule timeframes, while still being extremely intricate and realistic.

Director Andy Fickman is certainly not afraid to tackle hard-hitting themes. Although I felt at times there were a few cases of an actor blocking themselves to much of the audience apart from those positioned in the middle seating section, I believe this was done to maintain realism – which was convincingly conveyed throughout.

Although this is not a hugely dance-heavy show, this perhaps made the dance breaks even more impactful. Numbers such as ‘Big Fun’ included vibrant dance breaks, solidifying the theory that this cast is made entirely of triple-threat performers, hitting each move skilfully in time to intricate instrumental breaks. Although not specifically a dance, the skilful and descriptive movement choreography in ‘You’re Welcome’ was effective yet hilarious, provoking hysterics in the audience by the final chorus. Choreography by Gary Lloyd.

The musical direction from Will Joy was impeccable. The band were sympathetic to all performers, which was particularly evident during Veronica’s solos such as ‘I Say No’ and ‘Dead Girl Walking’ – leaving opportunities for the performer to successfully ad-lib and act through song with strength and clarity. At this point I must add that the sound was crystal clear throughout – consistently set at the perfect volume to give the audience an intimate sense of being privy to the cast simply having a conversation.

Overall, I considered Heathers: The Musical at the Theatr Clwyd to be a huge HIT. I would highly recommend both musical theatre fans and fans of the original film to BOOK NOW. Tickets are sure to be selling like hot cakes, so do not miss the opportunity to experience this spectacle as part of the musical’s UK tour.

Reviewer: G.D

Reviewed: 28th March 2023

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★