August 7th, 2018
I love Heathers the Musical and I mean slushies at 4am, ‘The Princess Bride’ movie marathons and scrunchies with every outfit love it – so when I heard that The Other Palace would be housing it this summer in the UK, of course, I joined the mad scramble for tickets and oh boy was it worth it. Honestly, the creative team and cast should have been listed as honourary fairy godmothers and Dumbeldores in the programme because this show is bloody magical. I never imagined I could fall even more in love with Heathers but it’s fair to say my adoration of it has once again blown up – pun intended. Sadly, over the past few days it has finished its run at The Other Palace but, don’t panic and hold onto your croquet mallets because it’s moving to the Theatre Royal Haymarket later this year, so for now, I wanted to write a well-deserved tribute post for the performances held at The Other Palace.
The Show and Cast
I will hold my hands up and admit that, yes, I’ve seen the bootleg video of the off-Broadway production of Heathers. I know that this can fuel theatre-kid wars but at the time the show had finished its run so I didn’t have much of a problem with watching it, especially as it helps to maintain the show’s legacy. However, the Other Palace production, while still following the same story arch is undeniably very different than the off-Broadway production and this should be recognised from the off-point. So, regardless of whether you’re a long time fan or a Westerberg newbie, it’s an incredible show to watch – especially if you’re someone like my mum who appreciates toned abs and peachy boy bottoms then I assure you it’ll be a 10/10 viewing experience.
Despite the fact that I already knew the show, I was on the edge of my seat from the second the opening notes of ‘Beautiful’ began up until curtain call where I gave an outrageously giddy standing ovation – clapping, jumping, fist pumps and all. The show as a whole was breathtaking. The set design was immaculate, accommodating any changes of setting without overcomplicating scene changes, while still providing an intricate surrounding on stage. The same can be said for the lighting which I kept finding myself taking note of throughout scene and song changes. It was blatantly apparent that the creative team had taken the off-Broadway production and refined it to create an ultimate Heathers viewing experience.
What struck me the most about this production though, was how it had me captivated by the songs and characters I had always liked but never wanted to found fan clubs for, but that’s all changed now. For instance, Rebecca Lock’s performance as Ms Fleming, I mean what a woman! Ms Fleming has always been a ‘meh’ character for me, I never really found her funny and I always assumed she was just a ‘ditzy hippy’. But Lock’s interpretation of her was hilarious and in my opinion, drew upon a woman who was self-absorbed in a circumstance that required selflessness more than the off-Broadway production ever did. But I didn’t dislike her, which is something I’m even surprised to be typing now. Regardless of Ms Fleming’s actions Lock’s performance still drew out comedic, likeable characteristics from her which is absolutely astounding and deserves copious amounts of appraisal. Her performance of ‘Shine A Light’, while I don’t want to give away any spoilers, was definitely my favourite newly imagined aspect of the show – it’s even found its way into my top three favourite Heathers songs. The same can be said for Sophie Isaacs’ performance as Heather McNamara who I had always seen as the far less funny equivalent to Karen Smith from Mean Girls, whose spur of the moment character shift in ‘Lifeboat’ was something I never really understood. However, Isaacs has created a character I not only believe in and care for but also began to even feel myself relating to, particularly within her performance of ‘Lifeboat’. Ultimately, I left the show wanting to go to Westerberg High and become best friends with Veronica and Heather M, I mean I think we’d make a pretty epic girl power trio. Also, I would like to give a massive shout out to Charlotte Jaconelli who understudied Jenny O’Leary as Martha on the afternoon I saw this performance because she gave such a wonderful, heartwarming performance, so props to you gurl, you rocked it!
As for Jodie Steele, well she stole (ha) my heart. Her vocals were astonishing, she knows how to bust a move, I mean even the way she stands is captivating – basically, this is Wonder Woman we’re dealing with here. But more than that, while Heather Chandler is ‘evil’, Steele creates a ‘villain’ you want to love. Same goes for Jamie Muscato with his performance as ‘J.D.’. While they both present ‘villainous’ characters on stage, their wit and spark makes you want to like them despite them being supposedly bad – or at least that’s what I experienced. It’s sort of a Hades from Disney’s Hercules phenomenon you’re dealing with, you shouldn’t want to grab a quick drink and a cuddle with them, but you do. Although it should be noted that, as the play began to draw to its end, Muscato’s interpretation of ‘J.D.’ became increasingly unnerving as an entirely new, threatening ‘J.D.’ took the place of the slushie-loving one from the first act, which was both astonishing and terrifying to witness. I wish I could write about how talented each member of this incredible cast is all day, but quite honestly this would be a dissertation worthy length post, so while I am finally going to discuss Carrie I highly, highly encourage you to see the show for yourself to witness the iron-clad epicness that is this cast.
Carrie Hope Fletcher
I have followed Carrie’s work both on the stage, in the literary world and on Youtube for years now. So yes, it’s fair to assume I’m a diehard Hopeful which is why I wanted to separately address Carrie’s performance – not because I view her as being on a pedestal above the other cast members but because I think (and hope) I have a better understanding of her as an actress. Therefore when it was announced that she would be playing Veronica in this production of Heathers, I was nervous, I’m not going to lie. It’s not that I didn’t think she was capable of performing this role, but simply because I see Carrie as a fuzzy-warm-warrior-against-injustices-type-badass, which isn’t how I see Veronica. Veronica can be cold and cruel, as well as encountering a massive ego trip and while these traits do come alongside positive ones I struggled to imagine Carrie achieving the iconic Barrette Wilbert Weed Veronica, simply because I haven’t witnessed her display these traits. But Carrie isn’t Barrette and that my friends is what makes this show so blummin’ beautiful because she creates an entirely new, loveable, witty and B to the A.D.A.S.S Veronica. Carrie’s Veronica is hilarious, charming and thankfully (unlike in the off-Broadway production) stands up for herself far more – particularly in the ingenious new song ‘You’re Welcome’. Furthermore, Carrie’s Veronica was far more poignant when interacting with ‘J.D.’ at times, displaying a sense of fear within their relationship that I had never truly taken into account before, which positively added a further layer of development to her character for me. Regardless of how attached a die-hard Heathers fan may be to Barrette’s Veronica, Carrie’s interpretation of her has gifted the theatre world with a quirky, marvellous twin sister to the off-Broadway original – which is pretty darn cool if you ask me.
As for the more controversial topic of Veronica’s ‘new appearance’, I think it was about time she had her own butterfly-metamorphosis moment to allow Carrie to pop out on the other side in her blue blazer, as fabulous as ever. Regardless of any changes to her hair, or figure, or even costume the version of Veronica Carrie presented on stage was one I fell head over heels in love with but also, importantly, truly believed in. I have to put in a special mention here for Carrie’s performance of ‘Dead Girl Walking’ which is un-shamelessly my favourite song in the show so as you can expect I was very anxious for her performance of it, but hot damn! Carrie mentioned in an Instagram Q&A a while back how she felt like a rock star when she rips upon her shirt in ‘Dead Girl Walking’ and after seeing it live I entirely understand why – I mean I was ready to throw my bra onstage in an attempt to get it signed by the end of it. It was so empowering and invigorating to see Carrie/Veronica exude self-confidence on stage and that is something very, very special. So, if you’re one of those people hung up on the fact that Carrie’s Veronica isn’t ‘really Veronica’ just because of hip measurements and hair length then that’s a real shame and you are missing out on what I would boldly suggest is her best performance to date. Carrie, you did your fans proud gal.
The Other Palace is unlike any other theatre I have ever been to and while I know that Heathers has now finished its run there I urge any theatregoers to see something there at least once. As it’s quite a small theatre it creates a much more intimate viewing experience which was great for someone like me as it reduced any fears of big crowds because unlike most theatres which usually seat upwards of 1,000 people, The Other Palace seats only 312. Therefore, for me at least, the experience just felt a lot cosier, particularly as the majority of audience members I saw were also longtime Heathers fans it felt like more of a ‘theatre-community’ event rather than a public one. To put into perspective just how much smaller this theatre is. I was sat on the front row and during the performance of ‘Big Fun’ got a lovely ball of Dominic Andersen spit in my left eye – does that count as getting to first base with Ram, haha?
Besides that, The Other Gin Palace provided Heathers specific cocktails and slushies called; Freeze Your Brain, Candy Store and Shine A Light. Of course, I couldn’t pass up on one of these so I channelled my inner Heather Chandler and picked up a Candy Store cocktail and not only did it taste delicious but it also provided me with a super cute Instagram opportunity which I’m always up for! Fingers crossed they continue to do something similar to this at the Haymarket later this year because it added the cherry on top of the corn-nut filled cake. Something else which I loved about the venue was how personal everything felt, for example, just outside of the entrance to the theatre there was a corkboard for fans to stick their artwork and letters of support onto which further added to the feeling of mutual love for the show across the audience before we even took our seats. If I still haven’t convinced you that this is one of the most audience-friendly theatres and casts, not only did I meet, Jamie Muscato, Sophie Isaacs and Christopher Chung as they were leaving the theatre but also Andy Fickman, the director of Heathers, was strolling around asking audience members if they’d enjoyed their time there. In all of my years seeing shows I have never once seen the director take their time out to ensure the audience has loved their experience, especially when the show is as far into its run as it was when I saw Heathers. Ultimately, it perfected for me what was already an incredible theatre experience.
Finally, I wanted to quickly discuss the show’s merchandise which was the only aspect of the experience which was not tip-top perfect. Before even going to see Heathers I had researched the merchandise online so that I wasn’t panicking or questioning what I wanted to buy once I was there (that’s a top tip I live by, as I always find it stressful to decide what I want in a fast-paced queue) as I had heard they sold out very quickly. So, I arrived as early as my ticket would allow me to enter and was the second person in line for merch, however, despite this the majority of things were already very understocked. They only had smalls and extra larges in t-shirts and also had no notebooks or compact mirrors. This worked out for me as I wanted an extra large t-shirt to use as PJs and was only really interested in purchasing a prefects badge and programme besides this but it was a little disheartening to not have more options available. Of course though, I understand that this production blew up far more than quite a few people were probably expecting, so I can understand the low stock levels and ultimately I was able to purchase everything I wanted. I can only hope they better stock their merchandise for the Haymarket performances. Also as a word of caution, do not wash any Heathers t-shirts on a high-temperature wash. My mum lovingly tried to help me by doing some of my washing and due to the very high heat of the washing machine the metallic ‘Heathers The Musical’ writing on my shirt has very sadly been destroyed, so please lovingly care for your t-shirts and wash them at a low temperature!
Colour Me Stoked…
… what a show! As I said before, I have adored this show for years and doubted I would ever see a live production of it, never mind a live production as spectacular as this one. Both I and my mum (my theatre pal) left the theatre with sore smiling cheeks, squealing about sexy scenes and wiping away tear streaks after such an astounding performance. It’s fair to say it was big fun, big fun, BIG FUN! So thank you to the cast, creative team and The Other Palace staff members,it’s fair to say you carved open my heart and stuffed in more Heathers lovin’ and I’m all the better for it.