Colour me stoked and tie your hair with a coloured scrunchie Heathers the Musical by the independent theatre company – Millennial Productions was a brilliant production full of edge, passion, and undeniable talent across the board. The Brisbane creatives presented their debut musical filled with 80s nostalgia for the local Brisbane audience. They arrived strong to the Queensland stage with their dynamic and diverse casting for a powerful story of angst, love, vulnerability, and fear that your teenage high school years bring.
The black comedy is set in 1989 and is based on the cult classic film of the same name. It follows Veronica Sawyer (Erika Naddei) an unpopular 17-year-old young woman who is trying to survive high school’s hell hole with her naïve best friend Martha Dunnstock (AJ Betts). Veronica enlists school royalty the Heathers – Duke (Josie Ross), Mcnamara (Marguerite Du Plessis) and the ‘mythic b*tch’ Heather Chandler (Chelsea Sales) to help her become one of them so she becomes immune to the torment of high school.
Veronica soon meets damaged and misunderstood bad boy J.D (Elliot Gough) who takes her down a dark road that they can’t come back from. The show is filled with important issues that are still being discussed today and should be present in more conversations, including suicide, sexual assault, bullying, homophobia and more.
Erika Naddei took on the scrappy, awkward incredible high schooler Veronica Sawyer. She embodied the powerful young woman with a realistic but hopeful perspective on the world. Erika showcased her immeasurable talent and killer vocals in this larger-than-life production, particularly in the song ‘Dead Girl Walking’ and her character defining moment ‘I say no’. ‘I say no’ is a new song from the West End version of ‘Heathers’ and changes the whole trajectory and perspective of Veronica and J.D’s relationship.
Erika’s performance was earth-shatteringly strong and action-provoking as it made the audience root for Veronica as she put her foot down and said she wouldn’t be abused or treated a certain way to stay in a toxic relationship. Her relatability and quirkiness were thrillingly beautiful to witness, and the audience was so excitedly responsive.
Elliot Gough embraced the dark and misunderstood character of J.D (Jason Dean). The extraordinary performer gave a hauntingly intoxicating performance of the brooding exchange student that caught Veronica’s eye. He understood every ounce of J.D’s backstory. Elliot was vulnerable and protective when he was interacting with Erika as Veronica and presented that in the introductory song ‘Freeze your brain’. Their chemistry was palpable but intense especially in the gorgeous infamous duet ‘Seventeen.’
To juxtapose he embodied his villainous side in his climatic psychotic moment of ‘Meant to be yours’ when he wanted to blow up all the kids in the school all whilst confessing his undying love for Veronica. Elliot brilliantly made the choice to add extra personality ticks and robotic mannerisms to accentuate how seriously fearful he was of his own actions.
The iconic trio of Heathers were personified by Chelsea Sales as Heather Chandler, Josie Ross as Heather Duke and Marguerite Du Plessis as Heather McNamara respectively. Chelsea played the ‘mythic bi*tch’ role so sinisterly and her comedic timing was on point. Her physicality was especially hilarious when she was killed and is up then suddenly flops to the floor. Chelsea’s vocals were stunning and left the audience in awe. As the leader of the pack, her interactions with the other Heathers was the epitome of being best friends with your worst enemy, particularly evident in the trio’s high energy number ‘Candy Store’ when she continually pushed them around. The sassy, sarcastic superstar carried every scene and made the role her own.
Breakout star Josie Ross was born to play the character of Heather Duke. Being one of the youngest cast members she is an outstanding performer and vocalist. Her dynamic acting abilities were in the spotlight as she found her voice in the new hit song ‘Never shut up again’ and was sick of being quiet and appointed herself the new queen bee by donning the top dog’s old red scrunchie. Ross has an astonishing future ahead of her with her versatility and incredible belting voice.
The naïve and insecure Heather McNamara was represented by the fun-loving glorious entertainer Marguerite Du Plessis. Marguerite was a joy to watch as she illustrated her cheeky b*tchy side trying to fit in with the other Heathers and the audience found the relatability in her exposed moments. She shone beautifully in her raw and honest portrayal of McNamara in the life-altering ballad ‘Lifeboat.’ Marguerite has a beautiful voice and her special bond with Veronica is highlighted after she is teased by Duke and her other classmates. Erika and Marguerite bounce off each other gorgeously when she saved her from taking too many pills in her low moment.
Veronica’s childhood bestfriend Martha Dunnstock is personified by AJ Betts in an eccentric and innocent manner. AJ brought comedy and an enthusiasm to the role with a stunning voice to match when performing the sweet love letter to primary school romance in the song ‘Kindergarten Boyfriend’. AJ played the school target with grace and optimism it was beautiful to watch her vulnerability and then happiness at the conclusion of the show when she was on her way to getting her friend back.
The mischievous duo of Brandon Taylor-Cotton as Ram Sweeney and Matt Domingo – Kuhweder as Kurt Kelly were incredible, comical, and playful. They were a major catalyst for Veronica realising she didn’t have to put up with their abuse of power and brought to the forefront the issue of sexual assault and violence that should not be tolerated.
Emily Rohwedder as the spiritual hippie teacher Ms Fleming and Veronica’s overprotective Mother was sensational. Emily made the dual characters her own and was hilarious in her portrayal. William Chen gave the local audience versatility with his loving and amusing depiction of Kurt’s Dad, non-challan part of Veronica’s Dad and Principal Gowan.
Josh Lovell embodied Ram’s Dad, Big Bud and Coach Ripper and did so with ease and made each persona unique. The song ‘Dead Gay Son’ was so brilliantly performed by Josh Lovell with William Chen, it left the audience in stitches. Josh illustrated his fantastic ability to switch from different perspectives and dive deep into the dark mind of J.D’s psycho father superbly.
The dedicated and exquisite Ensemble in this production were out of this world entertainers. They included Jaime O’Donoghue (Veronica cover and New wave girl), Aiden Cobb (JD cover and Bitter Geek), Chynna Santos (Stoner Chick and Heather Mac Understudy), Giselle Roe (Hipster dork and Heather Duke understudy), Olivia Hutchins (Young Republicanette, Heather Chandler and Martha understudy) and Ian De Luna (Preppy stud and Kurt/Ram understudy). From the incredible choreography by Lauren Bensted especially in scenes like ‘Beautiful’, ‘Big Fun’ and ‘Shine a Light’ the group of triple threats held the show together strongly as they relied on each other, and the audience felt the unquestionable love and high-energy from the seats.
So, honey what you waiting for? Step into this ‘Candy Store’ and snap up your tickets to the hottest local independent production of 2022! Don’t miss the super strong performances in this well-oiled machine of a company. Millennial Productions creative team put together a light-hearted show with all the grit of ‘Heathers’ you need. The up-and-coming production company is only getting started and this show was ‘Big Fun’ from start to finish. Come for the extraordinary story and score and stay for the lively and animated cast of superstars bringing this dark comedy to life!
Heathers the Musical
Playing now until 10 April 2022
Ron Hurley Theatre
All images supplied.