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Heathers: The Musical - Review

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by BeardedReviews (subscribe)
I love the moment the lights dim, the curtain widens and the movie starts. Going to the cinema is one of life's great activities and should be enjoyed as much as possible.
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A dark journey through the high school

Heathers: The Musical is a musical from writers Laurence O'Keefe and Kevin Murphy which hit Broadway in 2010. It is based on the 1989 film Heathers, a dark comedy that, similar to Sunset Boulevard, doesn't scream "musical adaptation!" Despite that however, the show is certainly a great piece of entertainment.

Regardless whether you have seen the 1989 film or not, Heathers is an entertaining musical and the GJ Productions show currently on show at the St. Martin Theatre in South Yarra is an exceptional night out that should not be missed.

GJ Productions was founded in 2015 and when seeing the show, you don't need to read their bio to know that they are a company that gives emerging artists opportunities. The cast, the band, the directors - everyone was quite young, very enthusiastic and incredibly talented.

Photography: Matthew Howat / GJ Productions Facebook

Heathers is a musical that focuses on telling the story through musical expression and doesn't use scenery changes or many props to aid the actors. That doesn't matter in the slightest, as the cast, all dressed in fantastic costumes, gives an energetic and completely engaging performance featuring everything from hilarious slow-motion cafeteria fist fights, to raunchy sexual moments, extreme bullying, violent murders and attempted sexual assaults. Did I mention that Heathers was a very dark movie?

Heathers is the story of Veronica, a young girl tired of being bullied by the popular kids, who manages to befriend the Heathers, a group of three girls (all named Heather) who rule the school through power and cruelty. However, the arrival on the scene of new boy, J.D, has Veronica smitten, and her banishment from the group drives her into the arms of J.D. However it turns out J.D has a few extreme ways of dealing with bullies and Veronica's moral compass might just be flexible enough to play along… for a while.

Photography: Matthew Howat / GJ Productions Facebook

Veronica is played by Antoinette Davis. Davis' performance was exceptional throughout. Her vocal range is very impressive and her acting skills and use of facial expressions kept Veronica as a heroine and a sympathetic character throughout. As the star, Davis had to be exceptional to keep herself as the focus, as the cast around her were also amazing. She was confident and poised throughout and had a number of great musical performances that were full of energy.

Jason 'J.D' Dean was played by Jack Michel. Michel is able to bring a sense of outcast coolness to J.D, dangerous enough to be a threat, but charming enough that you like him and don't instantly begrudge his character for the odd dead teenage bully. The cafeteria scene was a great highlight.

Photography: Matthew Howat /GJ Productions Facebook

The Heathers were played by Grace Maddern (one of GJ Productions founders), Madeline Pratt and Morgan Dooley-Axup. All three girls were fantastic in their roles, each created a different character from the other, but working well as a team. Maddern was a standout and held nothing back throughout.

The high impact roles were that of the jocks, played by Matthew Bertram and Dean Robinson. Clearly, these boys enjoyed their roles and were very intimidating (particularly Bertram) when bullying others. They also had a number of extremely funny sexualised jokes that they were able to execute with hilarious results, and they too participated in the previously mentioned cafeteria fight, which was a great highlight.

Photography: Matthew Howat / GJ Productions Facebook

The cast was fairly small, but powerful supporting role performances really shined through the madness of the story. Elyse Batson added a lot as Martha, the focus of some of the Heathers worst cruelty and portrayed her character's unfortunate gullibility in a very sympathetic way. Alexandra Knight was hilarious as Ms Fleming, the middle-aged hippy teacher seeking attention. Peter Levey and Houston Dunlevy were the elder statesmen of the cast and brought a lot of character to the several roles they played, with great comedic timing.

The singing overall was very good, however, there were a few pitching issues at times, especially in some of the more theatrically phrased melodies. The full cast numbers had a few harmonies that didn't quite work, but that may have been caused by cast members being unable to clearly hear everyone, as the sound mix was a bit of an issue throughout the show. Whilst the cast were wearing microphones, from my position in the front row, they didn't seem to have much of an effect and some dialogue and lyrics were very hard to hear. The band wasn't always balanced in its mix either, however, they had worked out some very clever ways of getting the music together, considering the band was spread out across three separate areas. Conductor/musical director Peter Verhagen did a fantastic job conducting a mostly young band of talented players.

Speaking of music, the songs are great in the show, particularly the two opening numbers Beautiful and Candy Store.

Under the direction of Jack Wilkinson, GJ Productions have produced a fantastic musical that is well worth the cost of admission. The show closes this weekend, so act fast if you want to go. Be aware that the show is quite dark in its humour and those easily offended might find the content a little too confronting. If you can look past the crude and disturbing aspects of the show, you will certainly have a lot of fun.
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Where: St. Martins Theatre, 28 St. Martins Lane, South Yarra
Cost: Full $38, Concession $35, Group Booking (5 people) $35 per person
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