Heathers: The Musical takes the West End show and makes it accessible to audiences outside the London sphere of influence.
Heathers: The Musical, filmed live at the Other Palace, offers a cinematic lens to the West End for one night only, opening up the London production to cinemas across the U.K. and allowing for broader accessibility.
The musical adaptation follows Veronica Sawyer, played in the 1989 film by Winona Ryder and on-stage by Ailsa Davidson. Veronica’s dream of popularity comes true when she’s accepted to join a clique of beautiful yet malicious bullies who all share the forename Heather – appearing in this theatrical version as Heather Chandler (Maddison Firth), Heather Duke (Vivian Panka) and Heather McNamara (Teleri Hughes).
However, when J.D. (Simon Gordon) begins to influence Veronica’s perception of how the bullies should be treated, the show descends into a fierce battle of power and social hierarchy.
With the show reaching a significant appeal for its themes of teenage drama, homosexuality, and mental health, it wouldn’t be long before the film was either dramatized, much like Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, or Dear Evan Hansen. Yet, rather than depict the production in a teen-drama like those examples, Heathers: The Musical is filmed directly from The Other Palace as if opening its doors beyond its 310 capacity.
Disappointingly, there is only one example in the filmed production that benefits from having a live audience, during the song Shine A Light, breaking the fourth wall as a deliberate tonal shift from the theme of suicide.
It is hard, therefore, to appropriately credit the filmed production with being anything other than a way to make the West End show accessible with its cinematic run.
There are moments where Andy Fickman’s direction has the camera used to provide an extra layer of storytelling, with conventional low angles indicating power, and vice versa, the high angle positioning creating a sense of inferiority.
Still, there is a noticeable consideration for the camera to refrain from interfering with the paying members of the house’s view of the show, which as a result, places the camera primarily covering the production with a static mid-shot occasionally cutting back to its audience bathed in the vibrant colours associated with the show’s principal cast.
Suppose there was a way to take the stage show, its kineticism from both on-stage and through its audience, and translate it into a dramatised production with considered mise-en-scene. Heathers: The Musical could find a shelf-life with its audience in that case. However, its direct-from-the-theatre coverage is only commendable for opening up the stage show beyond London and allowing it to become timeless for enthusiastic fans.
Whether audiences see Heathers: The Musical in theatres or at its home, The Other Palace, its youthful story, catchy songs, and weighty vocal performances, most notably from Ailsa Davidson, will continue to have a drawing power that few shows outside of The Rocky Horror Picture Show has managed to achieve.
This cinematic capturing of Heathers: The Musical may not draw in new audiences, but its acknowledgement towards its cosplaying, lyric singing, cult-following fans is exactly who the film serves, knowing it and embracing it with all of its power ballad belters and luminous blazers.
Heathers: The Musical is in cinemas for one day only on 28 March. For details as to your local venue showing Heathers: The Musical, see https://heathersmusicalfilm.co.uk/
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