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Heathers the Musical – Norwich Theatre (13.06.2023)

The 1988 Winona Ryder/Christian Slater movie upon which this production is based is often referred to as a cult classic, by which they mean no-one watched it and certainly didn’t appreciate it at the time. I was only very young when it was released, and it had also passed me by until I was introduced to the musical version, which I had the privilege to watch last year at The Other Palace Theatre in London. I enjoyed it so much that I was thrilled to have the chance to see it closer to home at Norwich Theatre Royal.

Heathers follows the story of our hero, Veronica Sawyer, who struggles to fit in at high school. That is until she manages to ingratiate herself with a group known as the Heathers - a trio of characters that form the “Teflon-coated, lip-gloss Gestapo” who rule the roost at their school, Westerburg High. After falling out with head honcho, Heather Chandler, Veronica thinks her life is over, until her path is smoothed by her newly-acquired psychopath of a boyfriend, JD. Much of the show then deals with fall-out from JD’s more than troubling behaviour.

On opening night in Norwich, understudy Eleanor Walsh did a superb job of encapsulating the gawky energy but ultimate power of Veronica. Her solo numbers in particular were excellent, with I Say No being the highlight of a daunting repertoire. Also deputising was Eliza Bowden as the super-bitch Heather Chandler, and there was not a foot or hair out of place in her performance.

Flanking Eliza Bowden was Elise Zavou and Billie Bowman as Heathers Duke and McNamara respectively. Both managed to couple exemplary dance skills with well-defined characters, and Billie Bowman was also able to show a more sensitive side in the slightly haunting rendition of Lifeboat.

Playing the troubled teen, JD, was Jacob Fowler who displayed his magnificent vocals throughout a brooding performance, and on the opposite end of the spectrum was the comic duo of jocks Kurt and Ram played by Alex Woodward and Morgan Jackson who never failed to raise a laugh with their very physical comedy.

There’s a loose moral thread about acceptance that flows through the show, and this is never more in evidence than in the brilliant show-stopping number My Dead Gay Son but largely it’s just daft stuff, and certainly not worth thinking too deeply about. So, as JD advises in his wonderful song, ‘freeze your brain’ and enjoy a highly entertaining musical full of rich songs, wickedly dark humour, superb choreography, and great costumes.

Heathers the Musical continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until the 17th June.


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