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Theatre Review: Heathers: The Musical - Brisbane QPAC (Performances through 17th January)

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Whether your faith is a God, the community or a Seers shopping catalogue sometimes we don’t ask the higher powers for something but he gives it to us anyway. Was there a riot demanding the 1988 cult classic Heathers be revamped into a musical? Probably not. But Off-Broadway is one of those whimsical places that bring you not what you ask for but what you’d never think of, and now in Brisbane Heathers: The Musical is waiting for you.

Before Mean Girls there were the Heathers. But at this point in time I want you to forget the cult film. Leave it in the doorway, shove it in a cupboard, I don’t care what. All you need to promise is you don’t let any prejudices or biases from the film seep into your excitement for this musical. We know it’s roots, and that’s wonderful, but to enjoy this musical I warn you know not everything is the same and it's better if you just sit back and do as Heather tells you.

But before that let’s introduce you to the musical’s Veronica Sawyer performed by Jaz Flowers. She has pipes louder than a school bell and a vocal range more diverse than a student exchange program. Her energy brings a lot to the sound of this character and in the end creates a new kind of Veronica. A more sarcastic, socially aware girl who tries to cut a deal with the popular kids but gets burned. She fills in the missing gaps that the movie doesn’t provide, how did Veronica come to be a Heather?

Kirby Burgess takes on the role of Heather Chandler and has a bigger part to play than you might think. Voice, wit, and the demanding demeanour of an agitated viper, Burgess has created a perfectly manicured monster in a hot red dress.

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The second half of the show comes out much stronger than the first half. Whether the cast had a pep rally in the gymnasium during intermission or if it’s simply the script stepping up a notch there were a few moments that faltered. And this is why I urge you to try and put the cult film from your mind. In the film there are certain scenes that have a subtle, dark and funny quality to them. But in the first half of the play these moments are done hastily or brush off the darker side of the scene while opting for loud, slapstick humour instead. There’s a delicate tightrope in this musical on what sort of comedy they need to be. Perhaps they’re conflicted, or still searching to hit the mark.

But with the arrival of Act II, there’s a great resurgence. The funeral scene is one of the most hilarious, choreographed moments of the plot lead by Vincent Hooper and Jakob Ambrose. It’s sensational and silly, but the lyrics and choreography are brilliant and that what builds up the element of comedy.

Erin Clare, performing as Heather McNamara, delivers a heart-breaking version of Lifeboat to the stage before Heather Duke played by Libby Asciak comes tearing it all down. Both girls make the supporting character occupy the whole presence of the stage when it’s their turn to shine.

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And of course there is the dashing, dark and daring J.D. His character is built up of a series of lines from the film, as well as giving him a more loving, selfless side. Stephen Madsen takes on the role. Madsen has vocals like the barrel of a gun, loud and fast and obliterating over any overture or backup singer. This oomph in his voice is a strange parallel to the quiet and unassuming character he plays. Unassuming until he decides to strike of course.

If you want to see the mockery in murder, a musical with chaos and two very sinister sweethearts QPAC presents to you Heathers: the Musical, running until the 17th of January. But if you miss out transfer to Washington. Transfer to Jefferson. No one at QPAC is going to let you play their reindeer games.

The reviewer attended the performance on 10th January 2016.