Wednesday, October 17, 2018


The cast of "Heathers - The Musical"
Directed by Kelly Roberts and Grant Pegg – Musical Direction by Matthew WebsterChoreographed by Natthan Rutups – Costumes designed by Jennie NorberrySet Designed by Chris Zuber – Lighting designed by Carl Makin and Grant PeggPresented by Dramatic Productions.
Gungahlin Theatre 12th to  27th October 2018.

Reviewed by Bill Stephens.

“It certainly ain’t Mary Poppins” murmured an audience member at interval. It certainly isn’t. More a cheeky hybrid of “Grease” and “The Rocky Horror Show”, which concerns itself issues of teenage sex, youth suicide and homosexuality in a manner that some might find confronting and others, refreshing.

Based on a 1989 cult film, “Heathers - The Musical”,  is set in the fictional Westerberg High, newbie, Veronica Sawyer (Belle Nicol) attracts the attention of the powerful and ruthless school clique, known as The Heathers, because each of the three leaders, played with panache, by Charlotte Gearside, Maddy Betts and Mikayla Brady, is called Heather. She also attracts two obnoxious sex-absorbed jocks, Ram and Kurt, portrayed with delicious enthusiasm by Pippin Carroll and Pierce Jackson.

Veronica, however, is more interested in a slightly creepy, but intriguing loner named J.D. (Will Huang) who, despite his spectacular way of dealing with bullies, comes with considerable baggage and startlingly dark habits.

For their pitch-perfect perfect, exuberant production, Directors Kelly Roberts and Grant Pegg have drawn excellent performances from their predominately young cast, who attack the witty dialogue and catchy songs with admirable gusto. Tight direction, colourful costumes, snappy dance routines and some cleverly staged, slow motion fight sequences, provide spectacle and enough sugar-coating to disguise some of the darker, less beguiling aspects of the show.   

Will Huang (J.D. and Belle Nicol (Veronica Sawyer) 
Both Nicol and Huang, in the central roles of Veronica and J.D, sing attractively and offer thoughtfully nuanced performances which hold the attention throughout. Similarly each of the Heathers offer impressively differentiated characterizations while maintaining their strong presence as a team. Several of the cast play multiple roles, but Chelsea Heaney is a stand-out as both the scorned Martha Dunnstock, and the inspirational teacher, Pauline Fleming.  

Armed with a  repertoire of stylish dance moves, choreographer, Nathan Rutups, has devised a succession of high-energy routines, so polished and in-tune with the material, that it’s hard to imagine these songs being done any other way. The cast toss them off with reckless confidence and obvious enjoyment, while still managing to maintain tricky harmonies and, generally, successfully compete with the enthusiasm of Matthew Webster’s sizzling hot on-stage band.

Maddy Betts (Heather Duke) - Charlotte Gearside (Heather Chandler) - Mikayla Brady (Heather McNamara)
Chris Zuber’s clever floating school locker setting works like a dream, with set-pieces effortlessly and efficiently manipulated around the stage by the cast, allowing for a seamless transition of scenes. Only the haphazard lighting, which, too often on opening night left crucial cast members shrouded in darkness, disappointed.

With its witty dialogue, catchy songs and exuberant performances, this production of “Heathers – the Musical” lives up to Dramatic Productions promise of delivering the highest quality community theatre to Gungahlin and the Canberra Region, and is certainly well worth travelling to Gungahlin to experience.

The ensemble for "Heathers - The Musical" 

                                                        Photos by Janelle McMenamin

                                This review first published in CITY NEWS on 15.10.18