Roku jumps into the filmed musical arena with the not-as-well-known as “Mean Girls,” “Heathers: The Musical.” Based on the cult ‘80s hit film directed by Michael Lehman and written by Daniel Waters, “Heathers: The Musical” began its life on the West End, and here is where the show returned to be filmed.
Starring an incredible cast of performers and well-directed both as a stage musical and for television, this pop-rock show captures the spirit of Waters’ screenplay (with key lines of dialogue still intact) but varies it enough to make it its own thing. That’s important when adapting a movie to the musical stage. Where shows like “Pretty Woman” play like an uninspired “Greatest Hits” of the film, others like this one use it as nostalgic inspiration – utilizing the best, most iconic things about the film, yet still managing to make it fresh.
The story of “Heathers” revolves around Veronica Sawyer (Alisa Davidson), a nice gal who gets sucked into the orbit of the popular “mean” girls of the school, the Heathers. (Because they are all named Heather.) That would be the queen bitch Heather Chandler (Maddison Firth), meek Heather Duke (Vivian Panka), and ultra-follower Heather McNamara (Teleri Hughes). Feeling like she can get through high school with them in her corner (even though she really doesn’t like them), she joins the squad – fashion sense and love of croquet accepted!
This puts longtime friend Martha “Dumptruck” Dunnstock (Mhairi Angus) on the outskirts of her life, especially when rebel Jason “J.D.” Dean (Simon Gordon) arrives. He’s too cool for school and puts the dimbulb popular jocks Kurt Kelly (Liam Doyle) and Ram Sweeney (Rory Whelan) in their place, adding to his mystique. Veronica is smitten, despite the disapproval of her Heathers.
When J.D. realizes what horrible people Veronica’s friends are, he manipulates situations that cause death and then cover-ups such as “suicide.” This causes a farcical and pointed exploration of teen antics, parental apathy, and school administration disconnect.
All of this is cleverly put on stage by director Andy Fickman and writers Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe, who also wrote the hilarious and sometimes touching score. From Veronica’s ballad “Dead Girl Walking” to the rousing “My Dead Gay Son” to the repeated motif of “Seventeen,” there are a lot of standouts, especially from the performers, who are all excellent. In fact, Davidson’s “I Say No” is the show-stopper, odd as it was a late addition, not appearing in the original 2014 version of the show.
Filmed at the The Other Palace theater in London, where it originally debuted, the “film” is a live production complete with a rabidly excited audience who have clearly seen the show many times before. This just adds to the joy of it all as you can feel the energy from the audience hit the enthusiastic ensemble right in the heart.
“Heathers: The Musical” is very “very,” so you better motor on over to Roku if you’re going to watch it.