Colour-coordinated croquet bats have never looked so good. In fact, the last time primary colours were used to this effect was The Wiggles. Fans of the original 80s teen flick (slasher flick? I guess it defies genre) will not disappoint in this musical update, which features all of the violent fun with an added streak of heavy satire and irony. Technical issues aside, Heathers the Musical is great fun from start to finish.
The opening number, Beautiful, rushes through plot setup with ease, making for a glossy opening and a stamp of quality. Camryn Jordans establishes herself from the get-go as a relatable figure in Veronica—removed from the Winona Ryder original, Jordans instead opts for a “cool nerd” persona that exudes charm. Opposite her as JD is Daniel Cropley, who mostly nails the troubled Baudelaire-reading teen, though his voice unfortunately doesn’t rise to the challenge set by his many songs. His voice also isn’t served well by the overblown soundtrack, which drowns out the miced singers throughout the whole production. Cropley’s number Freeze Your Brain, though, is a nicely subversive take on the standard hopeful “let-yourself-fly” kind of song that populates musicals, and the chemistry Jordans and Cropley share here is undeniable. As the three Heathers, Monica Horta, Madeline Shields and Courtney Sandford are a brilliant trio, giving their heavily cheoreographed numbers flair and energy.
Heathers, for all that this slick modernisation is enjoyable, also touches on several issues with a certain ham-fistedness. Teen suicide, depression, homosexuality and school shootings are swept up into the mix. It doesn’t exactly address these issues flippantly; but the timing is certainly unfortunate, considering the current and ongoing state of affairs in the USA, and pairing them with jaunty musical numbers could be seen as crass. But there is a lot going on under the surface of every song. Lifeboat and Kindergarten Boyfriend are sweet and sad at the same time, and performed eloquently by Sandford and Ella Heywood-Smith respectively.
Heathers is intentionally provocative, and in this case, it comes off splendidly. The songs and the performances are uniformly good, and more than make up for the technical issues and lack of stage setting. Heathers is a one-of-a-kind production, that showcases some great and upcoming talent.