• review by John Murray

Heathers - a cult hit

Updated: Jan 24

Heathers The Musical is set in Westerberg High School in the USA but this no innocence of Rydell High in Grease but more like St Trinians in modern times. In recent times issues of bullying, eating disorders, date rape and teen suicide are more relevant and as one critic said even more so today. The musical was an off-Broadway production which became a cult hit in student circles and helped by photogenic casting and powerful soundtrack. The cult continues and this week the Edinburgh Playhouse was filled with young ladies of a certain age some wearing the mini kilts as uniform. The queues for merchandise were longer than any bar or toilet lines usually associated with capacity theatre crowds. The T-shirts all sold out within minutes leaving scrunches, keyrings, mugs and outsized souvenir brochure. The staff assured me that more kit was due in before the weekend.

The story surrounds glamourous Heather Chandler played by Maddie Firth and her buddies Heather McNamara played by Lizzy Parker and Merryl Ansah who played Heather Duke. Enter Veronica Sawyer played wonderfully by Rebecca Wickes who does not fit in but finds alliance with Jason Dean (JD) played by Simon Gordon from Broughty Ferry.

He had never played the Playhouse until now, so it was dream come true time after years of being in audience and enjoying big productions like Phantom Of The Opera back in the day. This closes the tour and means he can be home in Dundee for Christmas. Simon had started in the industry aged ten with the Stagecoach stage workshops and this would lead him to his debut in the West End playing lead in Bat Out Of Hell the Jim Steinman musical with songs made famous by Meat Loaf amid flames, bats and motor bikes.

He was also chosen to be one of the leads in Jesus Christ Superstar with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber while he was still in university. The skills required for new musical theatre include primarily acting but with great vocals and dance and that advice was given to him from Sir Andrew himself. This can be demonstrated in the song Seventeen which he sings to the leading lady Rebecca Wickes (who plays Veronica Sawyer) as a show stopping number. The Veronica character comes to Westerberg High School as a nobody and meeting the Heathers she realises she might become a ‘somebody’ while rebel JD (played by Simon) has alternative ideas.

Written by Kevin Murphy and Lawrence O’Keefe, directed by Andy Fickman with choreography by Gary Lloyd it was all based on the 1988 cult movie which starred Christian Slater and Wynona Ryder. The production by Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills has all the qualities you would expect, and the six-piece Heathers band led by MD Will Joy sound much bigger than they really are – outstanding.

The second half steps up the gears and the finale had the audience give a standing ovation, lapping it up.

Edinburgh Playhouse until December 11th Tickets HERE

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