Review: Heathers at the Wales Millennium Centre [Press Invite]
Before Clueless and Mean Girls, there was Heathers, a cynical black comedy which brought to the screen a total subversion of the 'All American High School' often portrayed in teen movies. It quickly acquired an enthusiastic cult fanbase and after watching the show, it's not hard to see how the high-energy musical adaptation has gained a dedicated following of its very own.
Heathers is probably the most absurd and chaotic musical I've ever seen. I went in without knowing too much about it (I attempted to watch the film once but it was a long time before studying a film degree - the layers, satire and smart writing were clearly wasted on me and I only made it half way through!) and was definitely surprised at how dark the themes were throughout. The nihilistic motivations of the main characters don't lead to typical teenage arguments and backstabbing - the stakes are high, with people being murdered in cold blood left right and centre. The show is peppered with songs and jokes about date rape, suicide, eating disorders and bullying. They're very heavy topics for a musical that's so bouncy, energetic and colourful, with some spectacular songs that are positively exuberant. But it's hard not to enjoy yourself and overall, it was a fantastic show and well worth a watch.
Rebecca Wickes was excellent as Veronica Sawyer, an unpopular student who manages to get in with the most popular girls in school, the Heathers, despite absolutely despising them and all that they stand for. She falls for JD (played by Simon Gordon, who had a wonderful voice), a typically cool and quiet school newcomer who has no qualms about fighting back against the Heathers and anybody else set on tormenting their fellow classmates. What he has in mind is a lot more deranged than Veronica would have expected, but being seventeen, naive and romantically obsessed with him, she goes along with it for a while. Despite Wickes being incredible in the part, I just did not warm to Veronica - maybe I'm taking it too seriously, but I think anyone that can be so nonchalant about killing her classmates is just not a great person!
That said...I'm about to contradict myself as Maddison Firth was the standout for me, completely commanding the stage as ice queen Heather Chandler who rules the school alongside her two best friends (also named Heather). She delivered a very big, theatrical performance as the vicious yet beautiful Heather and you couldn't take your eyes off her when she was on stage (dead or alive). She sang and danced amazingly, her comedic timing was impeccable and I absolutely loved 'Candy Store'. Merryl Ansah came into her own with "Never Shut Up Again" which really made me laugh and the costume reveal was fabulous. I also want to add some praise for Mhairi Angus as Martha Dunnstock, what a voice - so glad she got to have a solo that allowed it to really shine.
Image credit: Pamela Raith.
Heathers is showing at the Wales Millennium Centre until 4th December and you can book tickets online now: https://www.wmc.org.uk/en/whats-on/2021/heathers-the-musical