Heathers: The Musical, at The Meteor, Hamilton. Presented by: BlackBox Creative. Reviewed by: CATE PRESTIDGE
There was a packed house for the opening night on June 4 of Heathers: The Musical at The Meteor.
Based on the cult 80s Daniel Waters film, the musical is an exciting rework and is the latest production from local company BlackBox Creative.
The show is a black satire set against a backdrop of brutal high school pecking orders. With all the usual character stereotypes ramped up, it has tonnes of humour but also themes of bullying, violence and suicide. It was great to see BlackBox front foot the PG content with a voiceover that hit the right note for audience care.
The casting is terrific with the lead role of Veronica played brilliantly by Emily Costello. She captures the complexity of her character's transitions, connecting with the audience through her 'dear diary' monologues and through song.
The opening number Beautiful sets the scene with Veronica (as a 'pre-Heather' nerd) striving for optimism and kindness, or at the very least, survival. Costello is strong and nuanced with her lead vocals, supported by a polished ensemble.
The reveal of The Heathers is an audience winner. Top of the social pile is beautiful, preppy Heather No 1, The Almighty, Heather Chandler. Sarah Coleman is utterly compelling as the Teflon-coated 'mythic bitch' and 16-year-old me was duly terrified.
Clinging to her immaculately blazered arm, are Heather Duke (Mikayla Wilkinson) and Heather McNamara (Libby Turner), both polished and perfect. Turner was particularly impressive in her solo Lifeboat.
Patrick Ward and Nick Hall are alternately goofy and aggressive as jocks Kurt and Ram and the audience loved the well-orchestrated, very funny slo-mo fight scene between them and new kid 'JD' Dean (Ben Wilson). Great control and precision from all three actors and witty and clever direction from Mel Martin.
Wilson embodies the casual charisma of 'bad boy' JD, capturing his charm and intensity as well as moments of vulnerability. The relationship between JD and Veronica is central to the drama and both Costello and Wilson are believable in their intimacy. There are genuinely poignant, and terrifying moments between them and their duets Seventeen, Dead Girl Walking and especially Meant to be Yours were a highlight.
The original movie role of Veronica's best friend is merged with that of beleaguered nerd Martha Dunnstock. It's a great move and Cailyn Eccles shines with a poignant solo.
Also great was the device to retain the deliciously irredeemable Heather Chandler, Kurt and Ram in 'ghost' form and it was fun seeing Coleman, Ward and Hall grab the opportunity to shine.
Musically the cast were polished under the direction of Kirsty Skomski who has brought out the range and calibre of the performers impressively. The dynamic choreography showcases the contemporary dance background of choreographer Stephanie Balsom and makes full use of a well-designed stage space.
The revolving stage was brilliant, with intimate and expansive settings and scene changes achieved swiftly. There was a small issue with mic static and sightlines in the first half but a few tweaks between acts sorted this.
Hats off to the hard-working crew who had some quick turnarounds and heavy lifting manoeuvring the stage.
BlackBox (Mel Martin and Jacinta Parsons) are going from strength to strength with this, their seventh outing. Heathers is an ambitious show with a huge production team whose efforts are evident in the professional staging, costumes, sound and lighting.
The team deserve kudos for thinking boldly and creating a platform which fosters the talents of emerging performers in our city. Their choice of show and casting is spot on and the entire season is already sold out, with some seats available for an extra show added for Tuesday, June 8.
For me it feels like an exciting time for the performing arts in Hamilton. Newer companies like BlackBox, Bold Theatre and Loud Creative along with established players like Hamilton Operatic, Playbox and Hamilton Musical Theatre are all creating opportunities for young performers and stage crew.
This retains talent in the city and contributes to a vibrant and dynamic theatre scene – I'm looking forward to seeing more from the talented performers and members of the production team over the coming year.
What: Heathers: The Musical, PG – Parental guidance is recommended.
When: Until June 14, 7.30pm.
Where: The Meteor, Hamilton.
Tickets: click here