Heathers The Musical review: Not your average high school musical at Sunderland Empire

Heathers: The Musical runs at the Sunderland Empire until Saturday, June 24.

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Dear Diary, here we are, the opening night of Heathers: The Musical at Sunderland Empire.

Based on the 1989 cult-hit starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, this energetic and fast-paced musical dares to be bold, shock its audience, and packs in more twists than you can swing a croquet mallet at.

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Loyal followers of the film will be familiar with its dark and freaky themes, but the added musical numbers provide a fresh take on an 80s classic.

From the moment Sunderland Empire opened its doors, audience members are transported back to Westerburg High School with a slushie in hand and an appropriate ‘school rules’ reminder to turn off your smart phone (as they did not exist in 1989)!

The manic plot follows Veronica Sawyer’s (Jenna Innes) journey to popularity as she quickly befriends the notorious ‘Heathers’ (Verity Thompson, Elise Zavou, Billie Bowman) - Westerburg’s idolised but toxic trio. But after an encounter with the rebellious and ‘damaged’ Jason ‘J.D’ Dean (Jacob Fowler), it quickly becomes apparent that this ain’t your average high school musical.

Heathers: The Musical West End Production (photo: Pamela Raith)Heathers: The Musical West End Production (photo: Pamela Raith)
Heathers: The Musical West End Production (photo: Pamela Raith)

One of the standout qualities of Heathers: The Musical is its devilishly charming cast anchored by a confident lead performance from Jenna Innes. The Broadway World’s West End nominee was captivating as she switched from angsty to commanding on a dime

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But Innes' stunning range wasn't limited to just acting, with the powerful vocals on display in 'I Say No' particularly impressive.

Verity Thompson as Heather Chandler perfectly encapsulated the 'mean girl' spirit and sassy attitude of the character with a roguish swagger. This was evident from the moment she was stylishly introduced during the musical’s opening number ‘Beautiful’.

Male lead Jacob Fowler delivered a sustained sense of unease and tension on stage as J.D which shone through during ‘Our Love Is God’ at the dramatic climax of the first act.

The charismatic pairing of Alex Woodward and Morgan Jackson as stereotypical jocks Kurt and Ram respectively played a key role in the show’s most comedic moments with great comic timing and jovial mannerisms. The duo’s strongest moment came during the dark but catchy song ‘You’re Welcome’.

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Heathers’ ability to seamlessly blend humour with tragedy to the irreverent tunes of ‘My Dead Gay Son’, 'Kindergarten Boyfriend' and many others left us wanting more.

Every element of the production has a strong consideration of theatricality. Whether it’s the choreography, perfectly capturing the attitudes of each Heather, or the sharp and colourful lighting designs contributing to the lively atmosphere cultivated throughout the performance. Each costume has been carefully considered with intricate details for each character, with some creative costume changes leaving the audience singing 'dang dang, diggity dang a dang'.

On the whole, Heathers brings plenty to the table - from its edgy, whirlwind plot packed with catchy musical numbers, to its controversial subject matter - with plenty of laughs peppered in between.

A wild ride not for the faint hearted that often flirted with going completely off the rails, but still managed to keep things on track. Put this one in your diary!

Running until Saturday, June 24 at Sunderland Empire. Tickets available at atgtickets.com/shows/heathers-the-musical/sunderland-empire/

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