This dark 1980s film comedy has been given a surprisingly sweet remake in this musical production, now touring nationally after stints on Broadway and the West End.
As a remake of the film, Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe’s book doesn’t really pass muster. It sanitises some of the darker plotlines, and has an almost happy ending (if you can ignore the body count).
But as a musical on its own the lyrics are spiky sharp, and there is enough bleakness left for this to be just a little challenging, even if its poison is wrapped in a sparkly saccharine pill. And with an audience that, judging by the first night at Norwich Theatre Royal, is more likely to still be in high school than have been reminiscing about the original flick, that is what really matters.
As unstable brooding lead man JD, Jacob Fowler offers a pale imitation of Christian Slater’s swoon-worthy anti-hero; he has the looks but lacks the charm to quite convince that he could lure someone in as his murderous accomplice.
Standing in as Veronica, Eleanor Walsh however is a totally relatable smart but troubled teen – wanting to get through high school and going along with things for an easy life, at least to a point. She feels less to be attempting to channel Winona Ryder’s performance than making it her own, and succeeds.
Also stepping up on opening night, Elia Bowden was totally fierce as high school queen bee Heather Chandler, especially when plaguing Veronica from beyond the grave.
Despite some very witty lyrics – “feeling like Bono at Live Aid” was a favourite aside – most of the songs don’t really hit home. The exceptions are My Dead Gay Son and the (extremely contrasting, in ever way) Kindergarten Boyfriend – the later helped by a great performance by Kingsley Morton as Martha.
It is, in many ways, an odd choice for a musical but yet it mostly gets away with it. And if you don’t remember the 80s film that inspired it, you’ll probably love it all the more.
- Heathers: The Musical continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until Saturday, June 17, 2023