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Theatre Review: Heathers The Musical

Heathers The Musical

Book, Music and Lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy

Hayes Theatre until August 9

When anyone mentions the 1980s, I think of hair and shoulder pads. It was the time when Bonnie Tyler, The Bangles, Madonna, Irene Cara, Joan Jett, Blondie, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Bananarama, Sheena Easton, Cyndi Lauper, Kim Wilde, Belinda Carlisle, Gloria Estefan, Paula Abdul, Bette Midler and Toni Basil were all over the airwaves.

Why did I only mention female singers? The latest musical theatre offering in Sydney is all about the women.

The 1988 film, Heathers, that starred Winona Ryder and Christian Slater has since gained a cult following. Put it to music and you have Heathers The Musical currently playing at the Hayes Theatre in Darlinghurst.

Admittedly, I attended the opening night without having seen the movie or having read the media release, preferring to view it with an open mind, and assessing it on its own merits without comparison.

The show opens as a typical American teen musical with the overly expressive gestures, the singing, the dancing and the teeth. The three popular girls at Westerberg High in Sherwood, Ohio, are all called Heather, and chief Heather, Heather Chandler, has the highest, blondest hair and the biggest shoulder pads. The other stereotypes are Martha, the bespectacled, frumpy, nerd, Ram and Kurt (the football jocks), Veronica, the intelligent girl whom chief Heather decides to take under her wing, the parents who have no idea what’s going on, and Ms Fleming the hippie teacher.

Everything is exactly as it should be in a perfect, American, teen, high school microcosm until the new boy appears. J.D. is an intelligent, well-read rebel with an intense, James Dean-esque demeanour. Veronica is immediately attracted and is at the same time conflicted. She has finally been accepted by the popular Heathers but her new boyfriend is deeply cynical of them to the point of hatred.

This light and bright musical thankfully then turns into a black comedy with plenty of unexpected dark plot twists.

Some of the songs include, “Dead Girl Walking”, “I Am Damaged”, “Freeze Your Brain” and “Blue”, a song about blue genitals. Some of the dialogue is also refreshingly un-PC, “Well f—- me gently with a chainsaw”.

Under the inaugural direction of experienced musical theatre performer Trevor Ashley, the cast is tremendously skilled. As Veronica, Jaz Flowers shows that she is an amazing actor as well as a brilliant singer. From Lucy Maunder as Heather Chandler, to Erin Clare as Heather McNamara, to Libby Asciak as Heather Duke, to the jocks, Kurt (Jakob Ambrose), Ram (Vincent Hooper) to Lauren McKenna as both Martha and Ms Fleming, the talent in this show is consistently high. With Tony Sheldon, Hooper was also outstanding as the Steve Martin character in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels last year.

Set designer Emma Vine uses lockers with imaginative versatility; it’s a simple set that works. Bev Kennedy’s five-piece band sounds much bigger than it is, and choreographer Cameron Mitchell has perfectly captured the American musical dance style.

After seeing the musical, Cats, I walked out of the theatre humming, “Memory. All alone in the moonlight…”

After seeing the musical, Annie, I walked out of the theatre humming, “Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I’ll love ya tomorrow!”

After seeing the musical, Miss Saigon in New York City, I walked out of the theatre thinking, “That was a nice helicopter effect”, and was humming a song from another musical.

After seeing Heathers The Musical, I walked out of theatre quietly singing the song, “I Love My Dead Gay Son”. When this happens with any song, I usually replace it with “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” or “Day Trip to Bangor” to get rid of it, but neither worked. It stayed there for hours.

Heathers The Musical is a real trip. It’s easily the most enjoyable, laugh-out-loud production of the year. If you suffer from chronic political correctness, leave this one alone, but if you appreciate and enjoy incredible musical talent and well-written black humour, put Heathers The Musical at the top of your list. It runs until August 9.

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