Could adapting your favourite film to the stage leave it dead or reborn?
The popularity of musicals being adapted from films has increased over the years, with classics such as The Lion King, Hairspray, and Billy Elliot all popping up on Broadway. One movie that wouldn’t usually have been thought of as material for a musical is the 1988 cult classic film, Heathers. However, writers Laurence O’Keefe and Kevin Murphy brought a new twist to the story, adding classic local slang, pop-rock songs and colourful costumes which created an almost cartoon-like quality to the show, working well with the satirical aspects of the plot and also contrasting with the darker topics that are covered. With award-winning Carrie Hope Fletcher being the most recent actress to take on the role of the greatly loved Veronica, Heathers has had great success on Broadway and on the West End.
Set in the late 80s, Heathers: The Musical is a witty, dark, coming of age comedy focusing on the daily struggles of high school… you know, like murdering your classmates. Our main character Veronica is accepted into the mean girls clique of the 80s, the Heathers, where she rises to the peak of high school popularity.
The clique consists of three girls, all named Heather; head-cheerleader Heather McNamara, Heather Duke (who has noticeably seething jealousy aimed at our third and final Heather) and Heather Chandler: the leader, “the almighty, mythic bitch”. All sporting their emotions with their colourful uniforms: Chandler with her red outfit and iconic red scrunchie, representing her deep anger, Duke wearing green to symbolise her jealousy towards Heather Chandler, and McNamara, sporting a bright yellow to represent her surface-level happiness.
While having been accepted into the most popular group in school, Veronica falls for the new resident bad boy JD, leading her down a dark path of manipulation and multiple homicides. JD tricks Veronica into taking part in the murders by forcing her to write a suicide note in the handwriting of their victims.
Reviews from theatre critics have been mixed overall, with some complaining that the music doesn’t fit the story and others praising the direction in which the topics are covered. Many critics have also said that the subject matter is shocking and dealt with in a rather insensitive way, however, I believe it brings a new light to the conversation of mental health while also being an enjoyable satire about the perceptions of high school drama. Night after night of sold-out seats, the constantly active fan base and awards provide proof that the success of the stage production is undeniable.
Heathers: The Musical is a very enjoyable take on the movie with a bright, colourful set design, catchy songs, and edgy teen humour. It captures the success that a theatre adaptation of a film can have through its ever-growing fan base while also showing that the productions can form a life of their own.
Back on stage this May with it’s UK tour, Heathers: The Musical is bound to make an impression on audiences new and old, and if you want to see it for yourself the show will be hitting the Edinburgh Playhouse from the 7 – 11 July this year with other UK dates available online.