‘Heathers – the Musical’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by July 22, 2017

‘Heathers: The Musical’ is a ‘coming of age’ stage play, based on the 1988 hit movie written by Daniel Waters. The stage script, catchy music and hilarious, bawdy lyrics are by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe who wrote ‘Legally Blonde’ and ‘Reefer Madness’. This stage production is filled with teen suicide, murder, bullying, homophobia, and gun violence along with mean acts, love and revenge, and so is definitely aimed at adults. After a sell-out trial season in Los Angeles, the show had its major opening Off-Broadway in 2014.
This exciting and energy-packed musical can be seen at the Nexus Theatre, near car park 3, in Murdoch University, South Street. The show is for three nights only, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night until the 22nd July. The 135-minute production has curtain up at 7.00 pm.

Under the overall supervision of John King, production manager, Justin Neil Mosel-Crossley and his assistant Rhiannon Moon have quite a complex show to handle; this is made easy with the experience of Stage Manager, Nashy MZ, and her capable assistants Meagan Dux and Christie Yip.

The fly operators, Claire Tebbutt and Tijana Simić showed they understood that the curtains should be flown with a speed expressing the ‘feeling’ and in the mood of the situation.

The scene is 1989 and it is the first day for seniors at Westerburg High School.

The Set Designer, Andrew David was assisted by Nick Morant. The set was mainly black drapes, with the orchestra situated at the rear of the stage, behind a short flight of white stairs. At the side of the apron were sets of ‘symbolic’ school lockers.

Tay Broadley’s colourful lighting design was operated at times with split-second timing. Tay’s sound design was supplemented with live effects operated by Corina Brown and her assistant Kiah Van Vlijmen. (Perhaps a minor oops?)

      Despite her deeply contemplative and considerate personality, brilliant seventeen-year-old Veronica Sawyer (Cat Perez) is quite unpopular at school, and must regularly defend her chubby but jolly friend, Martha Dunnstock (Rebecca Dilley) and a fraught Geek (Remy Arrow) from being bullied by Kurt (Harry Broun) and Ram (Sean Wcislo).

      Although Veronica knocks around with Stoner (Paige Moraweic) and ‘New Wave Girl’ (Stephanie Beckham), deep down she admires three girls all called Heather, but they heartlessly mock her. One day she sees a handsome, but inwardly unhappy student, Jason ‘JD’ (Joshua Towns), who buys her an ice-cold ‘slurpie’. Later that night, with lust on her mind, Veronica sneaks into Jason’s room. He devises a plan to get rid of the powerful and obnoxious Heather Chandler (Kimberly Harris).

       The day after the Remington University party, Chandler and her two cronies, the unlikeable, bulimic Heather Duke (Kiara Macri) and the unfriendly cheerleader, Heather McNamara (Grace Whitney) falsely claim that Kurt and Ram have been given a blow job by Veronica, and so Veronica is determined to get her revenge by making the boys appear as a gay couple. When Ram’s Dad (Dean Lovatt) and Kurt’s Dad (Bradley Camm) hear of this rumour, their reaction is a surprise.

Veronica seeks advice from her Mum (Alyssa Burton) and Dad (Jonathan Maddocks), who also dislike her friends. However, one of the Heathers dies, and so the police (Harrison Mitchell and Jordan Baynes) are called in.

      From this moment Veronica is plagued by ghosts, murders and the ending has hints of ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

Director, Claire Mosel-Crossley, who was mentored by Thomas Dimmick, has done a brilliant job. This show demands a troupe that can sing, dance and convey subtle humour, often all at the same time, and the director has selected a top-rate cast that succeeded magnificently.
Musical Director, Krispin Maesalu, had a couple of dozen musical numbers to arrange, and then had to teach the cast to sing. The songsters were all in tune, with a powerful delivery and precise enunciation. Krispin is a master at providing backing for singers. He selects a sensitive and dedicated orchestra; in this case it comprised of Chris Johnston on guitar, An Lee and Talitha Dunn on reeds, Mark Beasy on drums, Meg Vicensoni on bass and Nick Choo on keyboard. This group worked as a team, with no Prima Donnas battling to give a solo. When the music was accompanying a mellifluous number, such as that of Martha, the musicians allowed the soft tones of Rebecca’s voice to shine through. Then, when the three Heathers or Ram and Kurt came to life, the orchestra could still give a well-balanced but belting rendition. Beautiful work.

Sara Bluntish’s inventive and tricky choreography was well-rehearsed and energy packed. There were times when the script required some of the cast to come out of their comfort zones, and be in their underwear or raunchy. There was no sign of nervousness or embarrassment, just rib tickling, laugh aloud sequences that were enhanced by the hard work of Costume Designer, Ellie Hopwood and her assistants Ash Spring and Bobbi Cooper.

Launcelot Ronzan’s fight sequences choreography was convincing, and in the slow motion / stop frame sequence hilarious.

Who will forget Ram and Kurt’s (Sean Wcislo and Harry Broun) colourful anatomy number, or the mourning fathers (Dean Lovatt and Brad Camm) declaring pride for their boys. The house was packed, not a spare seat anywhere. Absolutely every member of the audience left with broad smiles, talking about different sequences that tickled their fancy. Fantastic show, pity about the short season.