“dying to see it again”
As I said in this Instagram post, Carrie Hope Fletcher isn’t usually my favourite stage actress. While I adored her in Les Miserables as Eponine, there was something about her recently that I couldn’t quite put my finger on that I wasn’t a fan of. However, I would be completely and utterly lying if I said I didn’t absolutely ADORE her as Veronica Sawyer in this production of Heathers. I think the role suited her perfectly and I can’t now imagine who else I’d want to play Veronica more.
From the minute she opened her mouth in the opening number of “Beautiful” I realised that maybe I’d mistaken or judged Carrie too early before actually seeing her in this role. When she belted and riffed one of the lines I was probably one of the loudest in the audience to cheer. I let myself get completely and utterly soaked up in her performance and amazing vocals, and I was beyond pleasantly surprised the whole way through. From Veronica’s shy and awkward phase as a “normal” seventeen-year-old when she first meets and falls in love with JD, to the sassy, brave and confident girl she becomes, Carrie’s performance of this character development was beyond faultless. Basically, she nailed it.
And what is a Veronica without her JD? There is no way that, as talented as she is, Carrie could carry the show on her own and it’s safe to say that her co-star Jamie Muscato is stunning in this role. I’d hate to say that he’s perfect for the role as I’d hate to imply that Jamie and JD share personality traits, but Jamie’s performance really was perfect. I enjoyed watching the show knowing the plot in advance and what I especially liked about it was being able to pick up on the cues of JD’s demise that Jamie portrays subtly at first and then with such intensity that it becomes incredibly powerful. The song “Freeze Your Brain” was (and possibly still is) one of my favourites in the soundtrack and Jamie certainly did not let me down in his rendition of the song. His voice is smooth yet rough and this combination creates a mysterious air to his character, accompanied by his costume and makeup.
As I’ve said, in no way do I mean to imply that Jamie Muscato is in any way similar to JD, but I was so enthralled by the demise into the dark depths of JDs character that the portrayal was scarily believable. The ways in which JD gains the upper-hand slightly on Veronica is portrayed so well by Jamie and Carrie, as can be seen in the photo below, as in, from just one hand gesture from Jamie we can see clearly the physical hold JD has on Veronica and through their facial expressions we can infer that this carries onto a deeper level too.
My only issue with the talent of Heathers is that I literally CANNOT stop listening to it and “Freeze Your Brain” has been on repeat for days. Help.
Without forgetting these sassy ladies of course, the Heathers are really what make this show the powerful, satirical and funny one that it is. While Heathers tackles issues that are very real and very prominent in teen life, such as bullying, popularity and cliques, teen suicide, rape, and romance, these three ladies both bring these themes to life AND add humour to the show at the same time.
T’Shan Williams (who plays Heather Duke in green) really takes over this role in the second Act of the show when she takes over as the lead Heather. I personally wasn’t a fan of the new song they added to the show, but nonetheless I thought she performed it superbly and the ripping off of her green outfit to reveal the powerful red underneath I thought was GENIUS! I was blown away by this and by the whole performance of this song really because it really gave both Heather Duke and T’Shan Williams a time to own the stage and shine, and boy did she!
Sophie Isaacs (who plays Heather McNamara in yellow) is the meekest of the Heathers and we later in the show that of the three of them, she struggles the most with keeping up appearances, as it were. Her song “Lifeboat” never really appealed to me when listening to just the soundtrack, but Sophie’s voice and performance really got to me and I connected with her character in ways I hadn’t expected to. Such a funny, unique and touching performance throughout from her.
Jodie Steele (who plays Heather Chandler in red – the main Heather) is absolutely outstanding on stage. Whenever she was on stage I quite simply could not take my eyes off her if I wanted to. Her dancing was outstanding and eye-catching constantly, her vicious glare was something I couldn’t distract from, and her whole performance was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before! I love the way this show is done so that Heather Chandler continually returns throughout in order to taunt Veronica and I think Jodie was excellent. Her humour and goofiness gives the show that funny edge that is necessary for one that addresses such adult themes and her energy on stage really brought the character of Heather Chandler to life.
Other cast members who are truly worth a mention include Jenny O’Leary, whose performance as Martha Dunnstock is heartbreakingly innocent, beautiful and tragic, and Dominic Anderson and Chris Chung, who play Ram and Kurt, respectively. All three of these amazing actors carry the rest of the ensemble and give more character to the students of Westerberg High. Jenny’s performance as Martha made my heart ache whereas Chris and Dominic truly made me hate teenage boys all over again which is definitely a good sign of their great performances!
My only criticism of the whole show was the addition Veronica’s song “Just Say No”. While I think it did add some further elements to the story, such as explaining why Veronica forgives JD so quickly and why she loves him, I felt the music didn’t match the rest of the album. The tone of the song was quite poppy, as opposed to the rocky theme that underlies the rest of the album. The lyrics were great and Carrie sang it so well, but I just felt it didn’t quite fit.
When seeing the show, some friends and I queued up for day-seats on the day, which means getting to the theatre early to queue for seats on the day in the front row. The tickets are offered at a first-come-first-served basis and were it not for some amazing customer service from those at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, we wouldn’t have got three seats together so I firstly have to praise the box office team for being accommodating, helpful and intuitive to help us!
The positives of front row were of course that we were FULLY involved with the atmosphere and action. At the end of the show when the whole auditorium was on their seats, we really felt really involved and the atmosphere throughout was electric. The only issues were that the stage was quite high so when things happened at the back of the stage and other cast members were in front of them, we couldn’t see which was a shame for the entrance of the Heathers in the song “Beautiful” and for a lot of “My Dead Gay Son”. The speakers are also on the stage which meant the view was slightly blocked, and being so close I felt I couldn’t see everything at once. However, I would definitely go front row again as the atmosphere was something that couldn’t have possibly been beaten. One thing I really noticed being in the front row was the makeup. JD’s under-eye makeup, for example, was so perfect for his character as it made him appear menacing and mysterious, which is something I wouldn’t usually notice.
One final note regarding Heathers is the crazy stage door. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen! When the show announced on Twitter that fans can no longer take photos with the cast after the show because of how busy stage door was I couldn’t quite comprehend why or how busy stage door must be to enforce this rule. Instead of a standard stage door, the Theatre Royal Haymarket has to have fans queue down the street, a queue which I think nearly went on forever. The organisation was fantastic, though, to allow all fans to get programmes signed, and there was still enough time to congratulate actors on their fantastic performances before they swiftly move onto the next fan. Whilst it would be nice to have a little more time, there must have been a hundred fans there after the show so two minutes with each person would take hours of the cast’s time! I’m just grateful that they do come out, sign programmes and briefly say hello.
Overall I really couldn’t recommend this killer of a show more and I’m dying to see it again!