Heathers: The Musical – Live at The Other Palace (2022)

How do you take one of the most twisted, yet perfect dark comedies from the 1980’s and make it even better? You turn it in to a musical, apparently. I didn’t know there was even a “Heathers” musical up until about two years ago when snippets of the music appeared on social media. Although I loved the original 1989 Dan Waters dark comedy (it’s a childhood favorite), I was more than open to seeing what the musical had in store. In fact, I was quite optimistic, when all was said and done.

Based on the 1989 cult classic film starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, the musical adaptation follows Westerberg High student Veronica Sawyer, whose dreams of popularity finally start to come true when she’s taken under the wings of the three beautiful, yet impossibly cruel Heathers. But when mysterious new kid, teen rebel J.D arrives in town, Veronica realizes that whilst it might kill to be a nobody, it’s murder being a somebody…

This performance is based right in “The Other Palace” where the musical originated, and it’s a dazzling show with a great iteration of the original film. The musical adapts the crime thriller quite well, adding some comedy here and there, as well as the great musical numbers. This adds a lot more of considerable sensationalism to the narrative, and allows it to really lend a new dimension to the original classic. The filmed musical performance is staged a lot like Disney’s production of “Hamilton” where director Dan Fickman films the performance, but includes some insert shots for the theatrical audience.

Lending some view to the audiences that aren’t attending said performance, this allows us to see more crucial moments, including the finale when JD plants the bombs in the school. “Heathers: The Musical” is different but it embraces the inherent lunacy of the original film, never really being afraid to go dark. So we’re able to see a lot of the brutal murders, while protagonist Veronica struggles with her dark side, a la sociopath JD. The performances all around are fantastic, with the musical primarily being held up by the riveting turn by Ailsa Davidson. Davidson as Veronica Sawyer packs in a lot of the same down to Earth qualities of Winona Ryder, while injecting her own geeky quirks here and there.

Davidson really is impressive here and she pulls off such a remarkable transformation of character. As previously stated, the musical follows the movie pretty much to a tee, which I highly admired, as it’s tough to imagine anyone could have turned that dark antithesis to John Hughes in to such a fun musical. I especially loved Simon Gordon as the sociopathic JD, while Maddison Firth is just excellent as the villainous Heather Chandler. I was pleasantly surprised as “Heathers: The Musical” works as a great companion piece to the original film, but also stands on its own as a twisted commentary on conformity, and the underbelly of suburbia.

In UK Cinemas for One Night Only, March 28th. Check Theater Listings.