Heathers – Melbourne season

Watching a musical based on your all-time favourite film could be a recipe for disaster. In the case of Heathers the Musical, the show, while incredibly entertaining and fun, struggles to use its original source material to create an engaging and innovative show. While a lot of the fantastic quotable lines from the movie are included in the script, overall this a show that sadly fell short of its potential brilliance.

Hilary Cole and Lucy Maunder will star in Heathers, Melbourne
Hilary Cole and Lucy Maunder in Heathers, Melbourne. Image by John McRae

The story is fairly simple on first glance – girl wants to be popular, girl realises that said popularity was a mistake, girl falls for the rebellious boy who convinces her to assist him in killing fellow students by faking their suicides…ok, maybe it’s not that simple. However the relationship between Veronica and J.D. is the crux of this story and unfortunately, their characters have been written in such a way that their relationship comes across as weak and frustrating. The danger that exists in this relationship doesn’t carry over onto stage and while Hilary Cole and Stephen Madsen are fine performers, their storyline lacks a much needed edge.

What this musical does is show us some of the immense acting talent that Australian musical theatre has to offer. As Heather Chandler, Lucy Maunder is divine and clearly relishes the joy of such a role. Meanwhile Lauren McKenna, who takes on the role of both Martha Dunnstock and Ms. Fleming, is someone who needs to be seen more, and Cole’s voice is a truly lovely experience to hear. The set design by Emma Vine is absolutely fantastic and her use of the school lockers to tell different parts of the story is brilliant and wonderful to watch, while Angela White’s costume design pays a delightful homage to both the movie and the 80s. Unfortunately sound issues marred the first half of the show and took away from the clever nature of a lot of the songs.

This was an enjoyable show. It wasn’t a great show. But I am glad I saw it.

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