Heathers! Sound familiar?
Fans of old-school films like myself will not need a reminder. With a cult following, Heathers The Musical is coming to Sunderland Empire from 20-24 June 2023, so grab your scrunchies, browse through your closet for 80s throwback pieces and prepare to sing your heart out.
Based on one of the greatest cult teen films of all-time starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, this high-octane, black comedy rock musical will turn even those that have been living under a rock into die-hard fans.
Directed by Andy Fickman and produced by Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills, the musical follows Veronica Sawyer who is just another nobody dreaming of a better day.
But when she joins the beautiful and impossibly cruel Heathers and her dreams of popularity may finally come true, mysterious teen rebel JD teaches her that it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder being a somebody…
Heather Chandler is the “it” girl at Westerberg High. Every girl wants to be her and every boy wants to be with her. She’s iconic and she’s one of a kind, played by Verity Thompson – a talented and friendly spirit from Essex.
During the busy UK tour of the musical, Verity shares her professional background, her love for the original film and the important themes it carries in the adaptation of it on stage.
Verity, your stage credits include Cinderella, Magic At The Musicals, Legally Blonde and others. When and how did you realise that acting is what you want to do in life?
I remember I was about 15 and thinking “God, I’m not good at anything!”, but after paying a visit to a few theatre shows it hit me: “Hang on, people get paid to do this?!” Not long after, I signed up and auditioned for drama school.
I moved out when I was 16 and was very lucky to go to a university called Mountview. I’ve studied musical theatre for five years and graduated last year.
I feel so extremely lucky to be playing the role of Heather Chandler and this is my first UK tour, so it’s all just very exciting.
Talking about the role of Heather Chandler. What is she like?
She is just very iconic and horrible! She is the Queen Bee of the school, very stern, mean and calculated. It’s a challenge compared to my role of Cinderella last year.
It’s a very different part to play but playing the villain is very fun. Chandler also has an interesting story, as you watch the show you hate her, but in the end, you end up loving her. She has these comedic moments where you see her be more vulnerable.
Are there any similarities between Verity and Heather Chandler?
There are some. I’ve tried to bring Verity’s quirkiness to the role as much as possible to make it more real, but generally speaking, I found the rehearsals quite challenging because I play this awful character and yet she’s so iconic, I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.
As of now, I’ve definitely come to my own terms with the character and I’ve put my own twist to it, which I hope the audience will appreciate.
You hear some actors stay in character for long periods of time to preserve the authenticity of the role, but what is your creative process like?
At the very start of it, I had to take myself off for half an hour and try to get in the headspace of Chandler. But as the tour has already started, we’re doing eight shows per week, so I got into the routine where I can just snap in and out of Chandler within minutes.
When I’m on stage, I do my bit, I’m there present in the moment and once the show is over, I’m back to being myself.
The whole show is such a massive production. What were the rehearsals like?
We had a whole team of people during rehearsals: Andy Fickman, Gary Lloyd, Kevin Murphy and others and we had two weeks to learn everything.
I know this might sound daunting but somehow we put our heads together and did it, although it was very scary at first!
I feel like since we opened the show, it has already progressed so much. The more you perform, the more comfortable you get and then you’re not so afraid to play with new ideas on stage.
I imagine getting along with the rest of the cast helps quite a lot. What are the dynamics between all of you?
I remember when I first walked into rehearsals, I looked around and thought “These people are going to be my family for the next year”.
I’m very lucky and fortunate that every single one of our cast are just the most amazing, lovely and kind people. I think our dynamics and how well we work together shows on stage as well.
The musical is the adaptation of The Heathers film from the late 80s. Do you think the themes within the show could be a bit problematic in today’s society?
People mention this to us quite often because, of course, the show has a lot of very heavy themes throughout. But I think a lot of people need to hear it.
We bring all these characters to light because everyone knows a Martha, a Heather Chandler, a Veronica, so it’s relatable in so many ways. I think people should also not forget that it’s dark humour, so take it with a pinch of salt.
Besides, we have these funny and iconic songs to keep it light in the air! My favourite ones are Candy Store and My Dead Gay Son. These are the songs that will be stuck with you for weeks after the show.
I know you have already started the tour, so what has been the audience’s reaction to it?
It’s been incredible! We have this bit where all three Heathers are facing the back and then they turn around and the audience is just screaming. It’s a feeling like no other.
What do you hope the audience takes away from Heathers The Musical?
I would say, take away whatever life throws at you and make it beautiful.
Our last song reflects on the journey that Veronica has gone through and highlights the importance of finding positives in every situation. I hope this message stays with the audience even after the show.
The production will visit Sunderland Empire from 20-24 June 2023. Full dates and venues can be found here.