Sunday, October 28, 2018


Heathers The Musical.

  Book Music and Lyrics by Kevin Murphey and Laurence O’Keefe. Based on the film written by Daniel Waters.Directed by Grant Pegg and Kelly Roberts. Musical direction by Matthew Webster. Choreogaphy by Rutups. Dramatic Productions. Gungahlin College. October 12 – 27 2018.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

Dramatic Productions has come up with another musical that consolidates its place as a top ranking music theatre producer in Canberra.  Heathers The Musical is no easy  challenge. Its premise that we are all in some way damaged, subject to the whims and actions of those more popular or more powerful, and driven to dubious actions to assert our individuality presents a dark and troubling aspect of the human condition. The Dramatic Productions team of directors, Grant Pegg and Kelly Roberts and Musical director, Matthew Webster have taken this on board and inspired an outstanding cast to rise to the heights and deliver an evening’s entertainment that is blazoned with energy, bursting with talent, musically manipulative in twisting the emotions, charging the tempo and pulsating with surprising rhythms. Nathan Rutups’ choreography brings a fresh feel to the lives of the students of Westerberg High in some of the highlight ensemble numbers such as Shine A Light or Dead Gay Son with Ram’s Dad (Jonathan Rush), Kurt’s Dad (Bailey Lutton and the Gospel Choir Mourners.
 Mikayla Brady, Charlotte Gearside and Madeleine Betts
Beneath the razzamataz of the explosive energy of the show is the serious glimpse of a troubled society, confronting the individual and societal conflicts of the age. Veronica Sawyer (Belle Nicol) wants to belong. The Three Heathers (Charlott Gearside, Madeleine Betts and Mikayla Brady) want to control as they vie for the coveted popularity crown. Prize dicks, Ram Sweeney (Pippin Carroll) and Kurt Kelly (Pierce Jackson)  are testosteronic , sex starved skittleheads. In the cloistered world of Westerberg High, where everything is ordered according to its status from the domineering Heathers to the domineered Martha Dunnstock (Chelsea Heaney), it only takes an outsider to upset the balance – the new prisoner in the prison; the new worker or executive in the workplace, the new neighbour in the street. At Westerberg it is the new kid on the block, arriving at his tenth school,. Who turns the natural order into dark and devious disarray. JD (Will Huang), a brooding antihero with a literary bent and bent psyche captures the heart of confused Veronics with desperate and homicidal consequences. Nicol and Huang are superb in the roles of Veronica and JD. They transcend the amateur to catapult their performances into the professional echelon of music theatre performance. They are brilliantly supported by a vibrant, slick and stunning Ensemble with remarkable individual performances by Jonathan Rush in My Dead Gay Son and Chelsea Heaney’s  touching Kindergarten Boyfriend.
Will Huang as JD and Belle Nicol as Veronica Sawyer

Heathers The Musical   has the American musical brand stamped all over it. Dramatic Productions has captured the brashness of a nation engulfed in the disturbing undercurrent of society’s seeping fragmentation and divisiveness. Part prophesy, part warning the musical’s fantasy is also the nation’s reality without the gloss of sentimentality or artifice. JD, bent on avenging his mother’s suicidal escape from an oppressive situation, reminds us only too clearly of the horrendous school shootings.

The power struggles within the school lend this production a sobering message, somewhat alleviated by the sheer ebullience and shining talent on the stage. On closing night this flooded the auditorium as the sound operator upped the volume to drown out a more serious subtlety, but it was closing night and emotions run high. I congratulate Dramatic Productions on continuing to present new and challenging work of an extraordinarily high standard. But where are the great Australian musicals? Where is the voice of our nation on the music theatre stage? Or is Heathers The Musical our musical seen through the prism of the American experience? Whatever the case, Dramatic Productions and producer Richrad Block with his creative team of artists and production personnel have once again given Canberra audiences a wonderful night of entertainment and thought provoking theatre.