Heathers The Musical ★★★★ @sohoplace | Until July 6, 2024

The Heathers are back! Based on the 1989 Daniel Waters film, this isn't the first musical to focus on tormented teenagers in small-town America, but it may be the most darkly cynical and subversive. All the tropes of the American high school genre are present: the popularity quest, the cruel cliques and the raging hormones. Here however, the school bullies are relentlessly killed off amidst an endless stream of generic rock show tunes by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O'Keefe. Impressive throughout the production is the ensemble work in Gary Lloyd's lively choreography, and the leading performers are first rate. Esme Bowdler almost steals the show as Heather Chandler, but Jenna Innes also put in a strong performance as the feisty and frequently bemused Veronica. As the murderous JD, Keelan McAuley is convincingly, yet sympathetically, psychopathic, and Jason Battersby and Iván Fernández González are great fun as the college jocks. The latter shine in their slow motion fight with JD before having to play the whole of Act Two in their underpants. The opening number of the second half, "My Dead Gay Son," could be toe-curlingly embarrassing, but it becomes a joyous, if somewhat cynical, celebration of diversity. That darkly parodic moment is wonderfully matched by the "Shine A Light" number which has hippie teacher Ms Fleming (Lucy Sinclair) exploiting the apparent student suicides for her own self aggrandisement. The show is at its best when it is skewering the warped values of its adolescent, small-town environment. It can seem a little more problematic if one thinks about it in the context of the horrors of mass school shootings in America. Nevertheless, it is hard not to enjoy this production's boundless energy, spirited performances and satisfyingly sardonic look at American values.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Pamela Raith

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