‘Heathers – The Musical’ review

Theatre, Musicals Haymarket Theatre Royal , Soho Until Saturday November 24 2018
2 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(20user reviews)
Heathers – The Musical
© Pamela Raith

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Even star Carrie Hope Fletcher can’t save this glossy musical sanitisation of the cult film

I think I’d have warmer feelings towards ‘Heather The Musical’ if I’d not previously seen the 1988 film ‘Heathers’. One of the all time great high school flicks, its scabrous wit and weapons grade cynicism are in no way recreated by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy’s glossy reimagining. Their adaptation clutches the basic plot points of the cult film about the demise of the eponymous clique of identically-named schoolgirls, but there’s rarely any sense they understood its appeal.

I’ll say three things in the defence of this production, transferring from a sold out preview stint at The Other Palace, and helmed by the show’s original off-Broadway director Andy Fickmann.

One, a musical in which the main antagonist is essentially a high school shooter – Jamie Muscato’s JD, channelling Christian Slater, but without the menace – is a big ask in 2018. It’s not really a shocker that they’ve toned his character down, or tried to take the edge off the teen suicide stuff.

Two, the tunes are big, bright things, sweet and crunchy and hooky. That they’re often completely unsuitable for the story – the second act becomes unforgivable bogged in sentiment and exposition – won’t necessarily matter to those approaching ‘Heathers’ as fans of the music rather than the film.

And three, singer and YouTube star Carrie Hope Fletcher really is terrific in the role of Veronica, the protagonist and de facto fourth Heather, who finds herself torn between them, JD, and her conscience. She’s a top flight vocalist, but more than that she’s a great comic actor, cynically commenting on the action or affecting an ironic detachment that cuts through some of the schmaltz laid on here. She’s nothing like original star Winona Ryder and that’s just fine - she has an appealing snark that often carries the show, especially in the first half when she features more prominently.

However. It’s not really enough to counteract the fact that the musical consistently fumbles the source material. The second half, in particular, is unforgivably mawkish. Details are consistently fiddled with: JD gains a more tragic back story; there are fewer killings and less brutal executions; Veronica’s inadvertent slaying of one of her jock tormentors is shifted to JD; the two of them sing songs about their feelings for each other; but what is the actual point when you’re dealing with a story that has multiple homicides baked in? It feels like an ersatz ’80s kitsch edition of ‘High School Musical’.

‘Spring Awakening’ showed us that edgy high school musicals are possible; but it also showed us there isn’t necessarily a West End audience for them. ‘Heathers’ looks like it’ll go the distance - but at what cost?

By: Andrzej Lukowski

Posted:

Venue name: Haymarket Theatre Royal
Contact:
Address: 18 Suffolk St
London
SW1Y 4HT
Transport: Piccadilly Circus tube
Price: £21-£59.50. Runs 2hr 30min
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Average User Rating

4.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:12
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:3
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:1
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I'm a bit at a loss for reviews that downgrade an adaptation for "adapting" from the original source material…The clue is in the verb.


I am of an age that i remember the original film - and liked it. That was then. This is now. I LOVED HEATHERS THE MUSICAL!! 


One of the strongest, most relevant pieces I’ve seen in years. So superbly and cleverly written - rather like the dual-play of a Pixar movie - that older audience members can enjoy the numerous nostalgic pop culture needle drops, while younger audiences get excited by the short, [social media-style] snappy speak and super-relevant thematics of bullying, body-image/shaming, personal values vs popularity, fitting in, sexual awakening, depression, teen suicide, being seen & heard or worse still for young people: being ignored & overlooked... 


For ALL these reasons, i can MORE than understand why this musical is striking a rather beautiful set of chords with teens & YA’s. Young Millennials & Gen Z's have to accommodate this "like / dislike" world at a rapacious rate way more than we could have ever imagined back in the 80’s, so OF COURSE their reactions will be different at seeing this visceral theatrical representation of how they really feel tho maybe dares't not admit... 


The music is stunning. Brilliantly playing out a musical battle between darkness and light that carries the show to it’s conclusion of inclusivity and hopeful acceptance that we are all beautiful. And here too, lyrically shows its smarts by effortlessly flicking from one thought to the next in a mili-second: From the worst thing in the world. EVER. To the best day of my life. EVER. Isn’t this how teens feel? Isn’t this how many adults feel in this contemporary life of near-constant instant grat judgement?


Cast performances are exceptional. Carrie Hope Fletcher leads a very strong ensemble. Her character Veronica, the quirky outsider, a rebel in her own lunchtime, deep, kind, soul-searching, intelligent, opinionated if asked but ultimately yearns to be loved. Vocally powerful never more so than in her barn-storming big number “I Say No”. 


But Heathers is no one-woman show… Jamie Muscato kills its start to bitter finish. Literally. Straddling JD’s almost bipolar teen cool vs teen angst unravelling under the pressure an uncaring, abusive home life… 


With comedic timing and diva-scale vocals, Jodie Steele is astonishing in her bitchy viciousness as lead Heather - and yet we still, somehow, like her… Sophie Isaacs & T’Shan Williams are hysterical & scary as the other two Heathers. With Isaac’s “Tiniest Lifeboats” one of the show’s numerous unexpectedly tender, vulnerable moments… 


So too is Jenny O’Leary’s breathtaking “Kindergarten Boyfriend”. The poignant loneliness of this isolated yet endearing character personifies the yearning at the (broken) heart of this whole story…


The Jocks are hilarious - accentuated physicality played to such perfection that, along with the dominating presence of the Three Heathers, makes you really doff your cap to the brilliance of direction & choreography throughout. Also hilarious, the revelation of “My Dead Gay Son” by their Dads is a whoop whoop worthy highlight, as is Ms. Flemming’s gospel-tinged 4th wall-breaking banger… 


HEATHERS beats you into willing submission thru sheer charm, beauty, hit after hit song of musical brilliance and the emotional intelligence within its writing. 


Can’t we be seventeen? Hell Yeah! As i watched, I yearned for those heady days again (we were so young and innocent then), while younger folk seemingly related to the song’s aspirational now-ism. Either ways, it felt to me that every generation of audience there connected to this exceptional new West End musical somehow, some way. 


LONG MAY THE HEATHERS REIGN. We need MORE shows like this and Something About Jamie please! 


Theatre that means something to everyone, not just a stuffy & aloof, older, exclusive theatre club. Musicals that have something to say with relevance & resonance of the world we all live in today. Very much needed in the dark days we all have to contend with out there, HEATHERS gloriously unites audiences with a common, optimistic hope, hilarity and bloody great songs! 


Forget cynical reviews. Forget the world. Go see. Go laugh. Go lap up Heathers. It is, after all, SO VERY!!

Tastemaker

Absolutely loved it, so great to see so much talent on one stage. I didn’t realise it was a movie before and o was thoroughly entertained from start to finish and the songs are still kicking around in my head.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening out, catch it before it’s too late.


Having been a huge fan of the film, I had high expectations about this production. I am pleased to say that they were met. Carrie Hope Fletcher who plays the lead is absolutely amazing! I found it difficult to take my eyes off of her as she has a huge presence. The supporting cast members ' The Veronica's' were also highly entertaining and the production was very similar to the film-down to the blazers! All in all-a fantastic cast which is highly recommended.

Tastemaker

Having never seen the film and being hard-to-please on the musical front, I was pleasantly surprised. I am actually shocked by the Time Out official review - my take was a darkly comedic, fun-filled, fast-paced and witty production. The acting is fab, the songs are catchy and funny, and the set design is brilliant. Carrie Hope Fletcher really steals the show with her note-perfect singing and all-round exemplary performance. However, I also loved to see a fantastic cast representing normal people of different sizes and races - top marks to the producers on this front, it made the show even more enjoyable. Highly recommend.


I'll preface this review by mentioning that I had not seen let alone heard of the original film, and so there will be no comparisons between the two here!


Heathers is, all things considered, an energetic, at times bombastic anthem of 80s Americana, a mishmash of high school tropes where they're all laid out for you over the course of the performance. The popular crowd of egocentric Barbies, the awkward nerds fumbling with their lunch trays, the secluded punks and the douchey football jocks, it's all there. Coming-of-age story, peer pressure, losing friends and making wrong ones. Going back to the old friend for comfort. Off to university. Sounds like High School Musical? Think again - this takes a dark turn at the interval and devolves quickly into a much gloomier story. Sadly that is all it did for myself and my theatre-mate. 


Recent events and mindsets must have acted strongly on the story, as it feels diluted and very often reined in - too politically incorrect or shocking to show JD's actions, the bullying of the "uncool" kids or the wild swerve around the theme of body image issues... Yet at other times incredibly brash and upfront with things no-one really wants to see: teenagers getting it on at a frat-like party, or cold-blooded murder that is completely uncalled for. It's a weird dichotomy that brings the entire play out of balance.

The cast is dominated by a few key actresses and actors, and unfortunately all the others quickly disappear after the first song to become background fixtures. They do not add much to the story or, more importantly, to the background...

The songs, sadly, can't live up to their occasional puns and punch lines - oh how often do they turn sour into crass humour so gratuitously blunt it's a little cringey. A bit of restraint and moderation would do a whole lot. And, they're not memorable: I couldn't hum or think of a single one of them two days after the show. 

In addition, I found that the songs unfortunately don't showcase the vocal range of the actresses and actors - and that is especially true for the men in the cast. There are moments of hope when they shine bright on stage and everyone cheers, but they end all too quickly. The stage is small - I'd never been to this theatre -  but the space is used well and stage presence is on point for all.


Yet these bright notes can't save the abysmal storyline, clichéd to death and so expected that you can practically put the words in the actors' mouths - which incidentally happens more than once, with the verses in the songs so poor you know what the rhyme will be before the end of the sentence. The first half is incredibly dull - have I come here to watch High School musical, only without it being, you know, High School Musical? - and ends abruptly in a shock cliffhanger; the second half tries to cram element upon element in the story, and ends just as abruptly as the first one. All in all, this was sadly one of the lesser musicals I've seen thus far. There's potential, but for us, it simply didn't do it.


The musical was FANTASTIC and it's now one of my favourites. Young, fun, electric and I could not keep my eyes off the stage the entire night. Absolutely fabulous. 


Carrie Hope Fletcher and Jamie Muscato left an imprint on my heart singing 'Seventeen'. Utter perfection. I loved every minute of it and would gladly watch again. 


I experienced fits of laughter, sadness and awe. I thought the entire cast were phenomenal and wished this was staying on the West End for longer. I truly love this show and the cast. I was completely captivated throughout the entire night. The show was spell binding and I will suggest it to anyone who is willing to listen. 

VOCALS WERE AMAZING. 


The entire team on the Heathers Musical should be so incredibly proud. 


WOW WOW WOW. 


Please sell a dvd I want to watch the show every week for a year. 


I went to see the 30yr anniversary re-release of Heathers at the Prince Charles Cinema as homework before seeing “The Musical” version. It wasn’t necessary & if anything was a distraction comparing the 2 completely different versions. I enjoyed the musical- it was light hearted fun & the audience were vocally enthusiastic which added to the atmosphere. It was well cast & I loved the 3 ghosts. Not as wickedly funny & cynical as the original film but a great pastiche & enjoyable romp of a show:

Tastemaker

I'm of an age where I can remember the original 'Heathers' film so I was intrigued to see how it translated to stage...well. I don't think I've ever been to see a West End musical with such a cult following! I've never heard such whooping and hollering at songs and characters and one-liners and when those titular characters arrived on stage, I thought the roof was going to blow off!


This is a great show. It's not perfect by a long shot and I doubt it will be around in 5, let alone 25 years time, but what it does have which some other musicals struggle with sometimes is killer energy. Seriously, this is one hard-working cast led by one dynamite performer in Carrie Hope Fletcher. Sheesh...not only does her voice ring clear and strong and bursting with character and emotion, she's also incredibly smart & funny to watch meaning that every moment she's on stage is a moment you wanna be sitting up and taking notice. I'm amazed she's not already a bigger star than she is but if there's any justice in the world of jazz hands and tap shoes, she very soon will be.


I found the rest of the cast mixed in terms of both talent and likeability - as queen bee and superstar bitch Heather Chandler, Jodie Steele is fantastic, an absolute knockout of long legs, big hair & bad attitude and as diminutive Heather McNamara, Sophie Isaacs is perky & pointed and a dead ringer for a young Kristin Chenoweth. Sadly T'Shan Williams didn't have a voice as strong as her counterparts and was often hard to hear and understand while Jamie Muscato seemed to be struggling with his accent for a lot of the show. To be fair to him, his role is one of the weakest on stage - in the decades that have passed since the original film was released and Christian Slater brought JD to life, times have changed and now it seemed as though the producers couldn't decide just how bad it would be politically correct to make the boy who encourages murder and teen suicide meaning he just seemed a bit flat and confused.


There are some awesome songs that you'll be humming home and YouTubing the next day but they aren't consistently good and some of the lyrics are a bit sketchy. The first half is decidedly stronger in every way but every scenes bursts to life in a riot of colour and high school Americana that's a real joy to watch. 


There's no doubt this is a fun show that deals with some very un-fun themes; you absolutely couldn't write it now and you have to watch it with a certain degree of detachment. If you don't know the story-line or find yourself easily offended, skip this and head for The Lion King down the road. Know that there are also some very adult scenes in it so maybe leave the kids and the grandparents at home too but go with the right crowd of fellow theatre lovers and you'll have an absolute blast. Literally.

tastemaker

I took my 17 year old daughter who has never seen the film and she completely loved this show (as did I). The singing, the dancing, everything was spot on. To be honest I wasn’t expecting it to be very good but I was so wrong. A really great night at the theatre.


If you want a bright, shining teen musical this is your show and if that is your expectation this is great! If, on the other hand, you were looking for something approaching the dark, biting wit of the movie classic, you’ll walk away feeling a bit cheated. The songs are peppy, if not so memorable, the cast is uniformally telegenic and glossily talented, but the sarcastic angst, that in the current climate could totally be served up to an understanding audience, is not even slightly approached. Adore the overture playlist...two and a half hours of that dance party with friends probably would have led to more lasting memories than this cute, but generic musical.

Tastemaker

It's been a long time since I've been involved in such a well deserved standing ovation - Heathers was INCREDIBLE. The vocals, oh the vocals. The choreography and the talent of those dancers. The cheeky one liners. The costumes. I loved it all and I've literally been listening to the songs on repeat since I saw this last week. I am also making plans to go and see it again with all my friends who want me to stop telling them how good it is.


One caveat - I have never seen the movie and, to be honest, I'd never heard of the movie or the stage show until recently! So I can't say whether or not it lived up to expectations of existing fans...but as a standalone piece of theatre it was simply delightful <3


Oh and also had no idea who Carrie Hope Fletcher is (sorry, I'm a bad millennial) but daaaaamn can that girl sing! Watch it. That is all.

Tastemaker

I love going to the theatre, however, there are only a handful of productions that have held my attention the whole time and really captivated me. I hadn’t seen the original film nor had I read the synopsis, so I went in to Heathers with absolutely no expectations and it blew me away!! 


From the instant it started, I was hooked, the singing and the dancing were incredible from all the performers, especially compared to other shows where you sometimes find that there is only one strong singer/ dancer. The whole cast was packed with energy, talent and so much wit and the songs were all catchy and delivered in just the right dose (we have all been sat through shows where a song drags on just that little bit longer!). I highly recommend this show, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening and can’t wait to watch the old cult movie either! 


I saw the show twice already and I LOOVED it! 

Surprised that Time Out review keeps comparing the musical and the film. They are totally different, but both epic in their own way. 

The cast is brilliant, and the songs are great. It's both hilarious and thought-provoking. 

Also have to mention the atmosphere in the theater. The audiences were engaging and overall only positive vibes. Amazing. 


This is a really good show, the music and vocals are great. The show is aimed at a younger audience, mainly teenagers and It's definitely one for the girls. The second half lacks a little bit and some of the songs are a bit meh. 


But it's fun and a good night out!

tastemaker

One of the best shows I’ve been to this year. I hadn’t seen the movie but my fiend had and she was literally beaming at the end of it.

The story is random and fun, the singing is AMAZING. Such a BRILLIANT night out! Highly recommend it.

tastemaker

I came to Heathers with mixed feelings - I liked the film but didn't LOVE it! It's safe to say this West End production blew my expectations out of the water. The music and vocals from the cast were infectious, the cast were full of charisma and the lighting set the mood perfectly for each scene. Carrie Hope Fletcher is a fantastic choice as the lead, with her gang of YouTube followers making up half of the audience and cheering her along the way. Other notable mentions were Jodie Steele as queen B Heather Chandler and Rebecca Lock who steals the second half with her big number. If you're looking to laugh, be entertained and have some campy fun, then Heathers is the ticket for you.

tastemaker

Based on the 1988 film, this production is squarely aimed at teenage girls. Last nights press preview certainly hit the bulls eye with this audience. Being the wrong gender, & far too old was a disadvantage, but the enthusiasm of the young audience was very contagious, it was fun, & I did find myself laughing a lot.

The show is a bit off the wall, & lacks a bit of subtlety, but that's fine. The cast are fully committed to making it all work, and do a pretty good job.

I can only give it a three star rating, but I think last nights audience would disagree & award it a higher rating.

tastemaker

I officially loved this show. Great set design, amazing cast, catchy and comical songs. It was actually a breath of fresh air amongst a few very old fashioned West’s End offerings.

I was a big fan of the movie as a teen and so had to check out the musical adaptation but I really didn’t expect the show to be so laugh out loud funny and cleverly put together.

Every cast member had their moment and all of them shone.

Highly recommended if you want a really good and different night out.

tastemaker

This is a really good show. Carrie Hope Fletcher is just great as Veronica Sawyer, as I knew she would be. Heathers seems to have a cult following and Fletcher brings along her own YouTube followers that seem to be packing out the audience night after night. I'm glad it's getting a West End transfer, as it works very well at The Other Palace, but has potential to be great on a bigger stage. The songs let the show down a bit for me, other than Candy Store and Seventeen, I found the rest forgettable. This 80s musical has a lot to say about the pains of growing up and fitting it, which are still relevant today.

tastemaker

There's a reason why this musical has such a following.


Starting with the musical itself, it has the perfect combination on humour, acting and cheoro. This musical covers some very serious topics is such a genuine and light-hearted way.

The cast was all outstanding in their own right, including the ensemble who kept distracting me with their side characters. Carrie is an absolute stand out really showing off her amazing vocal controls and comic timing.


Now I don't normally notice the venue however with it being a small intimate theatre filled with people who clearly loved the musical created the best atmosphere.


Would highly recommend, not your standard musical in all the best ways.


Side Note- Programmes you can only buy with cash which is £10, no cash points nearby so bring some with you.