UMMTA’s production of Heathers: The Musical is a rock musical based on the 1989 film Heathers. For two hours the audience is transported to Westerberg High – an apparently normal high school which clearly represents the issues of wider society. We follow the emotional journey of Veronica Sawyer (Ahila Navaratnam) – a valedictorian in the making, who craves for something more. Assisting her in her social climb are the shoulder-padded, scrunchie wearing ‘Heathers.’ Heather Chandler (Bridie Pamment) leads the pack with her harsh exterior and lavish lifestyle. She’s followed by her two minions, Heather McNamara (Claire Warrillow) and Heather Duke (Laura De Longh), who each battle their own issues. Each day seems exactly like the last until the appearance of J.D (Harry Gore) – the ultimate bad boy, who turns Westerberg high into a walking cemetery.
Ahila Navaratnam does a great job at playing Veronica – a demanding role both physically and emotionally. She finds balance between Veronica’s empathetic nature, her damaging love for J.D and her desire to be noticed. The three Heathers give a superb performance with each playing her own role within the group. This created a good dynamic which further emphasised their power. Harry Gore did a good job as J.D giving the audience hints of psychotic tendencies as the character and the show developed. All lead characters showed great character knowledge and all had consistently superb acting skills, something they should be commended for. Vocals were also good for the most part; however, there were also many vocal breaks throughout the show.
Many of the standout musical numbers were performed by the supporting leads. In particular, ‘I Love My Dead Gay Son’ was a clear winner with both Daniel Czech and Rory Preece giving stellar performances as estranged fatherly lovers. The whole cast in this number really shone, showing an overwhelming acceptance and celebration for love of all kind. Jacob Kuek (Ram Sweeney), Sweeney Preston (Kurt Kelly), Tabitha Lee (Martha Dunnstock) and Grace Haslinghouse (Pauline Fleming) must also be commended for strong vocals, comedic timing and emotional pull within all their solo songs.
Direction was a winner with the audience being able to travel on a complex emotional journey of love, anger, and sympathy. Director Kate Weston did a fantastic job in highlighting the inner issues of each character and manipulating the audience to feel empathy even in unusual situations. Weston also did a great job in addressing sensitive issues – she structured these with poise and comfort, something that is not easy to do. Music director, Selena Nicastri, led a brilliantly talented orchestra who never skipped a beat. At times, I did feel that some numbers were a tad slow in tempo, however, I can understand its justification based on emotion and complexity. Choreography for the show was very powerful and clean, although simplistic in nature. A commendation must go to the choreographers Bronya Doyle and Joel Anderson who did a good job in selecting movements that could be performed at all cast members regardless of experience.
The set, although static and basic, was quite effective in its use. It managed to fill the space, create height and power and not detract from the main storyline. The costume design followed in a similar nature and had clear links to stereotypical dress from the 80s. Lighting and sound was used well throughout the show. At times, microphones were late to be turned on and this resulted in the audience missing half a line or two. They were also slightly too loud, specifically when vocalists were reaching notes in their belting range. Lighting was simple yet creative, specifically for the Heather’s introduction. I really liked the use of colour, but at times it was really bright for viewers’ eyes.
Overall, I enjoyed the performance and appreciated the enthusiasm and dedication of each of the cast members. And as one of the Queen B’s herself would say – “[this show] was so fetch.” So get down and see UMMTA’s Heathers: The Musical – you’ll die if you don’t.
UMMTA’s production of Heathers: The Musical runs from the 13th-21st of October in the Union Theatre.