Heathers the Musical
Rating: ★★★★★
Venue: @sohoplace, London
Cast: Jenna Innes, Keelan McAuley, Esme Bowdler, Sedona Sky, Daisy Twells, Amy Miles, Lucy Sinclair, Ivan Fernandez Gonzalez and Jason Battersby

Welcome to Westerberg High, where popularity is a matter of life and death, and Veronica Sawyer is just another of the nobodies dreaming of a better day. But when she’s unexpectedly taken under the wings of the three beautiful and impossibly cruel Heathers, her dreams of popularity finally start to come true. That is until JD, the mysterious teen rebel, teaches her that it might kill to be a nobody, but it’s murder being a somebody.

Heathers the Musical has been a staple in the UK theatre world over the past few years, attracting a myriad of fans, with that fanbase ever growing. This cult classic musical came from the iconic 1989 movie, Heathers, starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. The musical adaptation by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O'Keefe, with Andy Fickman's direction, has been entertaining UK audiences since the show's first London run in 2018. Several West End transfers and UK tours have followed due to the huge success of the show, and after the show's gala night yesterday evening, it's not difficult to see why the show remains as successful as it is. 

Heathers is a dark comedy that follows the story of angst-filled teen, Veronica Sawyer, who falls for the alluring new boy at school, Jason Dean. After becoming unexpectedly popular and falling in with the Queen bees of the school, Veronica quickly discovers the dangers of both love and popularity. 

In a theatre that was built to showcase new talent, while the show itself isn't new, this revival of Heathers sees an incredible 13 performers making their West End debuts. The intimate stage and setting has become synonymous with the show and I personally love the closeness of the stage to the audience. It enables the production to feel almost immersive at times.

It's worth mentioning that the show tackles themes such as suicide, coercive relationships, bullying, date rape and homophobia. While it is a dark production, the comedy interwoven throughout somehow manages to keep the majority of the show light. There are many laugh out loud moments, many of which are at the expense of Ram (Jason Battersby) and Kurt (Ivan Fernandez Gonzalez), who are a dynamic duo.

Having seen the show a multitude of times, there is something about this cast that brings a freshness to the production and I can confidently say that this is the best that Heathers has ever been, with the strongest cast it's had at the heart of the show. ITV's Mamma Mia! I Have a Dream finalist, Esme Bowdler, is a force to be reckoned with as mythic bitch, Heather Chandler. Domineering and assertive, she embodies the character spectacularly. Sedona Sky brings a quiet nastiness to the her portrayal of Heather Duke and Daisy Twells brings a naïve vulnerability to her Heather McNamara, particularly during her rendition of Lifeboat.

However, the pairing of Jenna Innes and Keelan McAuley as Veronica and JD, is the best I've ever seen. The success of last night is largely down to the duo and the chemistry they so clearly have. They play the tortured lovers incredibly well. And watching McAuley's descent into darkness is both terrifying and mesmerising. He has a true grit and rawness that has been lacking from previous portrayals of JD. Innes' portrayal of Veronica is a masterclass in musical theatre. A simply perfect duo in every way.

If you've seen the show previously, the sets and costumes from David Shields and Robin Lill, are virtually identical and it instantly makes the production feel like home. However, the acting is so powerful throughout, the cast could be on an empty stage and be just as captivating.

"Candy Store", "Dead Girl Walking" and "Meant to be Yours" were standout numbers from the evening, showcasing every principal cast member in the perfect way. The atmosphere throughout was almost palpable, and the atmosphere alone in Heathers brings an extra level of excitement to the experience. 

A show that's deliciously dark, bursting with energy, and showcasing the incredible upcoming talent in the UK. Heathers gives an in-depth look into coercive relationships and the toxicity of popularity and the unwavering need to fit into societal molds. You made it beautiful, the cast of Heathers 2024.

You can book tickets to see Heathers the Musical at @sohoplace, here.

**photo credit: Pamela Raith**

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