Heathers The Musical, Grand Opera House, Belfast, October 12, 2021, Review

By Conor O’Neill

You can normally tell the nature of the show by the queue to get in and the crowd in the reception. For Heathers The Musical this tends to be made up mainly by women and a notable lot of them taking on the black-eyelinered-Goth-look and more than a few dressed in Britney Spears Hit Me baby One More Time apparel. All of which usually indicates a cult following and the makings for a good night of musical theatre.

To those of you who saw the 1989 film from the pen of Daniel Waters, the synopsis I imagine isn’t too far away from the original movie. To a relative newcomer, like myself, I have literally a vague notion of what will happen during the next two hours and 10 minutes.

The general gist is this, diary keeper and top forger Veronica Sawyer is on the peripherals of Westerberg high school’s popular kids. Instead she hangs about with the equally nerdy Martha. The crew to be seen hanging about with are the three Heathers – Heather Chandler ‘The Mythic Bitch’, Heather McNamara and Heather Duke – and the two football stars Ram – yes, you read that correctly, but remember, we’re in the grand old U S of A – and Kurt.

Outside that tiny elite and the other students are simply there to be berated or simply overlooked. That’s until one day the three Heathers find themselves in a bit of bother with the headmistress and our little Veronica’s forgery skills saves the lot of them. With her feet just under the table the terrible trio decide to give Veronica a make-over and an invite to the in-crowd. Poor Martha is simply left behind.

Then things change, forged love notes are tactically placed, the big party is planned and a strange new kid comes to town. After that the bodies start piling high, ghostly apparitions taunt Veronica, a mass panic overcomes this little Ohio high school and love soon blossoms into a pyromaniac’s wet dream.

The first act is pleasing enough with big numbers such as Candy Store, Freeze Your Brain and Our Love Is God to keep the majority more than happy. Though with another hour and a bit to sit through I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the thought. And that wasn’t just my thinking, after the interval there were a few less people in the sold out Grand Opera House. Boy, did they miss a trick!

The second act is where it all happens. Every girl loves a bad boy, but the new guy in town, Jason ‘J.D’ Dean, makes for the perfect bad apple. With Veronica seemingly under his wing, the school starts to crumble and absurdity kicks in. Now we’re talking West End brilliance. Exactly why people flock weekly to the GOH.

Director Andy Fickman and choreographer Gary Lloyd are obviously no strangers to big bold musical romps, the latter being under the guidance of musical director Phil Cornwell. The main genre is rock, but there are ballads here too, Me Inside Of Me being a perfect example.

One scene that really won the hearts of the audience is the double funeral and the rousing dance and musical hit that is My Dead Gay Son. Those five minutes are worth the ticket price alone. And it was just about here my thoughts on Heathers The Musical started to change. No longer was this a bubble-gum musical about teenage angst and fit young men and woman dancing about for the hell of it. No, this fantastic show has a social conscience.

Be it bulimia, closeted homosexuality, teen-peer-pressure, suicide, media hype and its adverse consequences? All these are handled with both sensitivity and probably more importantly to theatre goers, a hilarity and unbridled sense of fun which to be honest, we could all do with right now.

I’d love to start praising the individual actors one by one and list their credentials, but alas there was no printed programme available, just a download which simply states names and doesn’t put them to faces.

But this show is more than worth your hard earn money. I’ve checked the website and there are seats available. If I were you I’d be online or hanging off the end of a phone right now.

Expect a big finale and to be standing on your feet clapping your hands raw at the end of Heathers The Musical.

For booking information go to http://www.goh.co.uk or phone the box office on 02890 241919

Heathers The Musical runs until and including Saturday, October 16, 2021

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