We all know the pandemic has been terrible for the Arts, particularly how much theatres have suffered. If anything good has come from it, it's that shows that wouldn't have otherwise been able to play a West End stage this year have been able to book themselves in for short runs. With that in mind, Heathers makes a welcome return to its former run of the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
Based on the 1989 movie, Heathers was adapted into a musical which premiered off-Broadway in 2014. It found more success in the UK though - transferring from The Other Palace to a West End run in 2018. Throughout its run, it won over a legion of fans who would dress up as the characters, throw their scrunchies at the stage and see the show over and over again. So another West End run was always going to be a smart move, even if it is only for a short run.
Only one member of the previous West End cast returned for this production (more on her later). Instead, new life is breathed (and taken away) into the characters by a cast who put their own spin on the roles. The main role of Veronica is played by Christina Bennington who has the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of Carrie Hope Fletcher but managing to find her own take on Veronica. Displaying incredible vocals, she delivers phenomenal performances including show highlight 'I Say No'.
Christina is reunited with her former Bat Out of Hell co-star Jordan Luke Gage who plays love interest J.D. If Jordan has proved what a talent he is in previous shows, he manages to transcend to a whole other level in Heathers, channeling all of the complexities of bad boy J.D and delivering an absolute killer performance. Sinister at times, he becomes absolutely terrifying in the shows darkest moments, genuinely giving me chills in 'Meant To Be Yours'. The fact the pair had existing chemistry from their previous roles works in the shows favours as the mutual attraction leaps off of the stage, leaving you with instant believability in them as a couple.
The titular Heathers are played by Bobbie Little, Frances Mayli McCann and, returning to the role of Heather Chandler, Jodie Steele. Like the plastics from Mean Girls, the trio run the show and spend the show oozing charisma. Their performances all together might be *cough* short-lived but the time they do spend together are among the highlights of the show with early number 'Candy Store' an absolute standout. In terms of performances, Jodie Steele is aptly named as she absolutely steals the show. Spinning around the stage in 'The Me Inside of Me', Jodie delivers a performance unlike anything you'll ever see again, perfectly embodying the mythic bitch that is Heather Chandler.
There are a myriad of incredible performers making up the cast of Heathers. Ross Harmon and Joaquin Pedro Valdes make a fantastic double act as Kurt and Ram, Steven Serlin and Simon Bailey deliver one of the finest moments in the show with the oddly uplifting 'My Dead Gay Son' while Madison Swan is spectacular as Martha - a slow burn of a performance, when she gets to her big solo number, she brings the vocal performance of the night with a truly emotional and vulnerable 'Kindergarten Boyfriend'.
Lauren Ward takes a break from her Olivier award nominated role in Dear Evan Hansen for a genius portrayal of Ms Fleming - full of precise comic timing, her 'Shine A Light' is up there with the best moments of the show and even features hilarious audience interaction as she finds her Steve. Special mention to the rest of the cast who leave it all on that stage no matter how small their role might be. This is one of those rare instances where every single member of the cast is equally flawless.
Heathers is one of those rare shows that just keeps getting better. If act 1 starts strong, it ups the ante throughout the first act leaving you wondering how it can be topped in act 2. But it does... and just keeps going until it reaches its explosive climax. While the plot takes a dark turn and carries with it some uncomfortable moments, it is absolutely compulsive viewing. With great staging, fantastic choreography and stunning lighting, this really is as perfect as a show can get.
Brilliantly staged, full of consistently high quality songs, this has always been a fantastic show. However, this cast have made what is already a fantastic show all the better. Seeing so many phenomenal talents on stage together is a prime example of what theatre can do at its best and how very... viable it truly is. If I thought the 2018 production of this was the perfect production of Heathers, it has just been improved. Perhaps it's the fact theatres have been closed for so long or perhaps it's this cast. Either way, the 2021 version of Heathers is pure perfection. While I'd love to see this in an open ended run and it to never shut (up) again, sadly it is only playing until September. See it while you can and I guarantee you are in for an evening of Big Fun.
Heathers plays at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until September 11th. Tickets available from trh.co.uk
Photos by Pamela Raith