REVIEW: HEATHERS @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH
📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR
🗓 Tuesday 4th April 2023
DEAR DIARY ... THIS SHOW IS DARK, BUT SO VERY!
Last night I was invited to the Theatre Royal Plymouth to watch the touring production of Heathers. Although I have seen performances from the show at events such as West End Live, I have not yet seen the show on the London stage nor have I seen the movie on which the musical is based, so I really didn't know what to expect.
To be honest I had very loose expectations of it being a story of the bitchy girls at school who see the light and make friends with the geeks and they all live happily ever after! This was not the case at all!
Heathers has a darker edge to it than you'd expect and there are themes of murder, suicide and rape. Even though it does include these dark themes, the show is somehow light and a lot of fun and I completely get why this show is so popular, especially with teenage audiences.
The book, music and lyrics are by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O'Keefe who have struck a great balance and the story really connects with the audience and takes them along for the ride. There are some amazingly funny lines in the script which had me laughing out loud and the songs themselves are really catchy. I'm still singing them this morning!
Production Image: Full Company
To survive high school, Veronica Sawyer befriends Heather Chandler, Heather Duke and Heather McNamara, known collectively as The Heathers. They kind of run the school and are the modern day equivalent of The Pink Ladies! Led by Heather Chandler the girls are bitchy and domineering.
There also two jocks who are central to the story. Kurt Kelly and Ram Sweeney may be high achievers on the football field, but they are definitely not top of the class in the brains department. But who needs brains when you're handsome and good at sports?
This is Veronica's new social group and she becomes drawn into their bullying ways, which leads to her luring her best friends Martha Dunnstock into a humiliating situation.
Veronica then meets J.D. He's the new kid at school and there's an instant connection between them. She gets drunk one night and climbs through his window where she then proclaims "Tonight I'm gonna ride you 'till I break you!"
J.D. has a warped outlook on life and becomes slightly obsessed with Veronica. He then tricks her into aiding him murder fellow classmates and making it look like suicide. In his mind he's protecting her from the people that have hurt her. She starts to pull away from him and he gets the idea to blow up the entire school.
Production Image: Jenna Innes and Jacob Fowler
The cast was led in spectacular style by Jenna Innes as Veronica who perfectly embodied the role. She had a great singing voice and you really felt her emotional turmoil throughout.
Verity Thompson as Heather Chandler, Elise Zavou as Heather Duke and Billie Bowman as Heather McNamara were everything you wanted them to be. They commanded the stage whenever they were performing and I loved their energy. Their performance of Candy Store brought the house down.
Jacob Fowler was a sensation as J.D. From the moment we met him you knew there was something a little off about him but you didn't know what it was. His characterisation was phenomenal and you really believed every word he said. I enjoyed the back story of his character and you really understand that he is actually an emotionally damaged young man. Fowler also had a good singing voice and was perhaps the standout performer for me.
Production Image: Elize Zavou, Verity Thompson and Billie Bowman
Fowler and Innes performance of Seventeen showed off how good their voices really were and you really felt the connection in their characters in that moment.
Alex Woodward as Kurt and Morgan Jackson as Ram were wonderful comic relief. They were joyous to watch and they had great chemistry throughout. They had some hilarious lines and their performance of You're Welcome was a defining moment for them.
Kingsley Morton as Martha Morton was cute and loveable and she had a beautiful singing voice. During her performance of Kindergarten Boyfriend you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium.
Katie Paine was a great addition to the company. She was wonderful as Ms Fleming and had a great moment of interaction with one audience member in particular!
All the songs were amazing and really funny but my favourite came as Act 2 opened in a funeral scene and Conor McFarlane and Jay Bryce performed My Dead Gay Son.
Production Image: Kingsley Morton and Jenna Innes
As someone who studied Technical Theatre I always enjoy a technically good production and the lighting design by Ben Cracknell was outstanding. The set was also really good and was very versatile.
So, why only 4 stars instead of 5? There were a couple things that kept this performance being 5 stars for me. As I mentioned I enjoy the technical aspect of theatre and I felt that the music levels were off throughout. It was difficult to hear all the lyrics being sung at times as the music overtook the vocals.
Also, even though I loved the show there were a few moments where it felt slightly flat. These didn't last long at all but were I felt they were notable.
Overall though, Heathers is a hit and i definitely want to see it again. Even though the story is rather dark, it is handled in a very light way and you leave the theatre feeling upbeat and safe in the knowledge that you've had a great night out.
Heathers is playing at Theatre Royal Plymouth until Saturday 8th April. Head to www.theatreroyal.com where you can book tickets. Availability is limited and is best for the matinee performance on Thursday 6th April.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being open, honest and free from influence.
My tickets for this performance were gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to the Press Night to review the production. The fact that my tickets were gifted played no part in my star rating for this review.
Production Image: Morgan Jackson and Alex Woodward
CAST AT THIS PERFORMANCE:
Jenna Innes as Veronica Sawyer; Jacob Fowler as Jason 'J.D.' Dean; Verity Thompson as Heather Chandler; Elise Zavou as Heather Duke; Billie Bowman as Heather McNamara; Kingsley Morton as Martha Dunnstock; Katie Paine as Ms Fleming / Veronica's Mom; Alex Woodward as Kurt Kelly; Morgan Jackson as Ram Sweeney; Conor McFarlane as Ram's Dad / Big Bud Dean / Coach Ripper; Jay Bryce as Kurt's Dad / Veronica's Dad / Principal Gowan; Markus Sodergren as Preppy Student / Officer; Tom Dickerson as Beleaguered Geek; Liam Dean as Hipster Dork / Officer; Summer Priest as Young Republicanette; Maeve Byrne as Stoner Chick; Eliza Bowden as New Wave Party Girl; Eleanor Walsh as Drama Club Drama Queen; Lizzie Emery as Midwestern Surfer Punk
RUN TIME (approx):
2 hours 30 minutes, including interval
Murder; Suicide; Attempted Rape; Bullying; Violence; Depictions of Firearms
The mission of Theatre Royal Plymouth is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the country's largest and most attended regional producing theatre.