The behemoth success of Heathers the Musical owes everything to its blistering rock-fused score, high octane performances from so many upcoming musical theatre stars and, perhaps most of all, the indelible connection with its army of super fans - the self-proclaimed Corn Nuts.


After two West End runs, a couple of prolific stints at The Other Palace and with the second of two nationwide tours about to close, the Heathers story is approaching its final chapter - for now, at least. There remains just one week of performances for its touring cast in Wimbledon but this talented group of young performers clearly have no intention of letting up.


Heathers, based on the film of the same name starring Winona Ryder, is the darkly comic story of Veronica Sawyer (played here by Jenna Innes), who falls in with the original mean girls - all named, you guessed it, Heather - as a means of surviving high school. Long-term relationships are tested with the arrival of the mysterious JD (Jacob Fowler) as Veronica faces up to the consequences of that age old question: what if you bump off the popular kids and make it look like suicide?


Innes’ Veronica is confident and refuses to take (much) shit from the Heathers or her new beau JD. Every leading lady in this show puts their own stamp on these delicious characters and Innes plays Veronica with a unique steeliness. Vocally, she is off the charts and her ‘I Say No’ - the big vocal test for any custodian of the role - is a real show-stopping moment. Fowler - previously part of the show’s London cast - holds his own opposite her but while spellbinding in song, appears to lack the next level of raw emotion and energy JD demands.


The key to Heathers’ longevity though is undoubtedly its relentless rock-inspired score. Laurence O’Keefe, of Legally Blonde and Bat Boy fame, teamed up with Kevin Murphy to create countless modern musical theatre classics, from the iconic Candy Store, the fiercely moving Seventeen and the captivating anthem that is Dead Girl Walking. Innes picks up where her predecessors, which include Carrie Hope Fletcher, Ailsa Davidson and Miracle Chance, left off and delivers a faultless, stunning vocal display.


Verity Thompson is suitably fierce as ‘mythic bitch’ Heather Chandler, although some of the role’s comedy fails to bite in the way it should. But it is Billie Bowman who shines among the trio. She plays Heather McNamara with an acute vulnerability which culminates in a completely devastating performance of ‘Lifeboat’. Bowman’s Heather has less stage time than the other two but she uses it the most effectively.


This may be the end of the road for Heathers just now. Mean Girls will soon look to capture its demographic for its own in the West End but you would be foolish to think this is the end of the journey. The future potential for this vibrant musical is still there, be it on the regional touring circuit or even limited West End runs. For that, it can be grateful to the groundwork laid by its alumni, which counts Jodie Steele, Jordan Luke Gage and Christina Bennington among it.


Diehard fans of Heathers should rush to Wimbledon to catch one last glimpse of Westerberg spirit, with this tour set to wrap up at the end of the month. With the exception of Innes, this latest cast may not hit the same heights as those that went before them but Heathers remains a modern musical theatre triumph. It is a truly special show, whenever and wherever you see it.

Heathers plays at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 28th October. Tickets from £13: here.


Review: Tom Ambrose