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Heathers The Musical

Heathers The Musical

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

Production by The Mitchell Old Company

ARA Darling Quarter Theatre until March 5

Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP

After a year’s delay due to COVID, Heathers The Musical has opened at the ARA Theatre in Darling Harbour.

The 1988 film, Heathers, that starred Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, has gained a cult following. Put it to music and you have Heathers The Musical.

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, is tall, blonde, narcissistic, entitled and influential. Veronica, the intelligent girl whom Heather Chandler decides to take under her wing, doesn’t like the Heathers but she wants to hang out with them to elevate her status at the school. The other stereotypes are Martha, the bespectacled, frumpy, nerd, Ram and Kurt the football jocks, 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 Heathers but her new boyfriend is deeply cynical to the point of hatred.

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

The songs include, Dead Girl Walking, I Am Damaged, Freeze Your Brain and Prom or Hell. Some of the dialogue is also refreshingly un-PC, “Well f—- me gently with a chainsaw”.

All of the cast members enthusiastically throw themselves into their work. From Sabrina Kirkham as Heather Chandler, Laura Dawson as Heather McNamara, to Kira Leiva as Heather Duke, to the jocks, Kurt (Jake Vollbon), Ram (Sam Welsh), to Jerrod Smith as J.D., to Michele Lansdown as both Martha and Ms Fleming, the developing talent in this show is impressive.

In the central, pivotal role of Veronica, Tiegan Denina is an outstanding triple threat who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mary Ann in Gilligan’s Island. Denina necessarily grounds the production and holds it together with significant talent, excellent vocals and a powerful stage presence.

Set design uses lockers with imaginative versatility. It’s a simple set that works. Choreographer Rheanna Hindmarch has perfectly captured the American musical dance style.

Under the guidance of young, new director Jake Tyler, I’m sure that this production will tighten up as the season progresses, especially in the first act.

After seeing the musical, Cats, I walked out of the theatre humming Memory.

After watching Annie, I was humming Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

After seeing the musical, Miss Saigon, I walked out of the theatre thinking, “Great helicopter effect”, and was humming a song from another musical.

After seeing Heathers The Musical, I left quietly singing My Dead Gay Son. Ironically, it’s the most uplifting musical number in the show. 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 in there for hours.

Heathers The Musical covers many of today’s issues such as bullying, sexual harassment, same-sex relationships and intolerance. If you suffer from chronic political correctness, leave this one alone, but if you appreciate and enjoy well-written black humour, put it on your to-see list. This production contains everything that you want in a show. There’s singing, dancing, murder, mayhem, intrigue, plot twists, glamour, emotional instability and school uniforms.

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