SCHOOL can be murder — if you go to Westerberg High.
The monster hit musical Heathers is at the Lyceum (until Saturday) after two record-breaking seasons in the West End pre-pandemic.
Set in an Ohio high school in the late 1980s, it follows “nobody” student Veronica as she realises her dream of getting in with the “Heathers” — the three mean queens of the school who share a first name and a love of bitching, bullying and ruling the roost.
Veronica’s loyalties are tested when she becomes diverted by mysterious rebel JD, a brooding but beguiling outsider who hangs out in the 7-Eleven and encourages her to “Freeze your brain” with the heady, icy rush of a “slurpy” drink, before upping the stakes to more sinister thrills.
As the programme blurb says, Veronica finds “it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder being a somebody”.
The production reboots the 1989 film starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, which became a cult classic after pitching itself as an antidote to the warmer-toned John Hughes’ high school movies — the Breakfast Club even gets a disparaging mention.
An energetic ensemble sing and dance well together, aided by thrilling routines from Thriller Live choreographer Gary Lloyd, and many of the cast make the most of their chance to shine in solo singing spots.
Rebecca Wickes commands the stage as Veronica, bringing vigour, versatility and powerhouse rock vocals to the lead, while Simon Gordon is also strong as JD, giving him charisma, passion and an air of menace when required.
Standing out among their classmates, Rory Phelan and Liam Doyle are hilarious as fist-pumping, meathead jocks Ram and Kirk.
All three Heathers are great but it is Lizzie Parker as Heather McNamara who features in the show’s most spellbinding moment.
Making her stage debut in this tour, she gives a moving performance of Lifeboat — a beautiful song laying bare the anxiety beneath Heather’s smiling veneer — which belies her inexperience.
It’s not just the jocks and the cool kids who suffer pot shots, as hippie teachers and homophobic bigots also take their place in the satirical firing line.
Heathers tackles serious issues like bullying, suicide and peer pressure but still manages to be joyous and, at times, belly-laugh funny.
Like JD’s slurpies, it’s an intoxicating combination, which a first-night Lyceum audience rightly guzzled down with glee.