REVIEW: Heathers the Musical at The Alexandra, Birmingham

The musical stage adaptation of the 80s high school cult classic has arrived in Birmingham – and it doesn’t disappoint.

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Welcome to Westerberg High School, where popularity is key to seeing you safely through your education. Take your seat and hold tight, you’re in for a bumpy ride.

The 1988 classic starring Winona Rider underwent the screen to stage treatment, opening in Los Angeles in 2014. It made its way across the pond to London’s West End to critical claim, where it picked up a WhatsOnStage Award for Best Musical. 

Credit: Pamela Raith

Transferring from stage to screen is a huge risk, especially the task of injecting new life into the musical with songs that are big enough to support the sensitivity of the story. 

Luckily for Heathers, this is something that has greatly paid off. It’s no Grease, that’s for sure. Though the show is colourful and bright, its subject matter couldn’t be more opposite if it tried. 

Known as the Heathers because they all share the same name, Heather Chandler, Heather Duke and Heather Mcnamara are the 80s answer to the Mean Girls. With their short tartan skirts and scrunchies, they rule the social circle.

Veronica Sawyer is at the bottom of the popularity food chain, but when she earns her place in the Heathers and meets the new boy, J.D., she learns that at the top of your game is often more dangerous than it seems and life at Westerberg High takes a rather dark turn.

Credit: Pamela Raith

Rebecca Wickes takes on the role of innocent Veronica. Her character experiences a cocktail of emotions, but Wickes takes the role entirely in her stride, rightly earning her place as a true Heather. 

Wickes is joined by Simon Gordon, who steps into the shoes of Jason ‘J.D.’ Dean. You’d be mistaken in thinking that Gordon’s character is a murderer. His voice is captivating and smooth, that you find yourself transfixed by the story that he has to tell. 

And as for the original Heathers, Maddison Firth is exceptional as Regina George’s answer to Heathers. With credits including SIX, she makes an incredible Heather Chandler. Her stage presence is throughout is electric and her voice delivers on a whole new level. 

Although I’ve never seen the film – I’m a 90s kid, please forgive me – I was blown away by this production. The book, music and lyrics, penned by Kevin Murphy make Heathers a deliciously dark and captivating watch from the moment the curtain rises. 

Credit: Pamela Raith

Yes, some points may be difficult to watch for some viewers and its dark, comedic lyrics rival the hilarity of The Book of Mormon in pushing the boundaries, but it’s part of the parcel that makes the show so enjoyable. Humour is generously sprinkled throughout, most of which is exceptionally delivered by Liam Doyle and Rory Phelan, who take on the roles of Westerberg High School jocks, Kurt Kelly and Ram Sweeny.

The soundtrack for me is what makes this show really shine, from the opening number ‘Beautiful’ through to the powerful ‘Freeze Your Brain’ and ‘Dead Girl Walking’, and even beautiful slower numbers, ‘Shine a Light’ and ‘Kindergarten Boyfriend’, the numbers have been cleverly crafted to create a truly enjoyable balance of drama meets glamour. 

Deliciously dark, captivating, hilarious and packed with twists and turns, Heathers The Musical is a first-class production that will keep you on the edge of your seat. 

Heathers the Musical runs at The Alexandra Theatre until Saturday, September 25. For a full list of tour dates and to book your tickets, click here.

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