Today marks the end of Heathers‘ time in London – the end, in some ways of a five-year journey for a show that has become a firm fan favourite. With that in mind, producer Paul Taylor-Mills reflected on the show’s journey and the impact it has had. The piece continues on tour through the autumn.
1. Looking back over the journey of Heathers – what has been your principal moment of pride for the show?
Heathers has quite literally changed lives, mine included. When I watch the curtain call from the back of the auditorium and see young people completely enthralled in live theatre I always take a beat and acknowledge what a privilege that is.
I’ve been lucky enough to accept incredible awards (including a WhatsOnStage Best Musical Award!) for our show but it’s been the conversations with parents that have stuck with me. They’ve thanked me because the show has given so many young people a community, sometimes a focus and even facilitated really important conversations. When a corn nut comes up to you and you realise they’ve travelled to Victoria on a coach all day because the show means so much to them, it makes my heart explode. It’s these moments that I get to carry with me forever and make all the hard work worth every second.
2. How has it felt seeing so many new theatre fans emerge from seeing this show – with Heathers as the first stepping stone?
What an incredible thing to be able look back at knowing that we helped bring so many young people to the theatre. There’s an incredible community of theatregoers that support all of my work and passionately cheerlead for new musicals and I think that’s quite special. I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like Heathers fandom. The first night at the Haymarket was like One Direction had reformed, actually let’s go with the Spice Girls…
3. What has the experience taught you as a producer ?
Don’t have a Twitter account and be careful what you wish for…I jest! It’s taught me learn where my energy is best spent. Ultimately I’ve had to learn that having a hit show is a privilege and one that comes at a cost. I learn daily how to navigate that and most importantly ensure I look after myself.
For the last seven years I’ve dedicated myself to it. It’s all consuming and shows don’t just run themselves once they’re open. When you lead on a show that means so much to many people, you have listen, but ultimately only you have all of the context and knowledge to make decisions.
I’ve had have to learn that ‘success’ is actually in knowing that you always tried your best. Even if doesn’t play out as you planned. I’ve had to find an inner peace in knowing that every single decision that has been made was to the best of my ability. And that’s enough.
4. How has the landscape of new musical changed since Heathers first premiered in the UK five years ago?
We’ve seen a huge surge in new musicals aimed at young people and it’s thrilling. It’s brilliant to see shows like SiX, and now The Little Big Things and Cake – what a time to be a live! Audiences are undoubtedly shifting. More and more young people are going to the theatre which will hopefully serve us well in the years to come and ensure we still all have jobs!
5. Can you also talk about how the show has helped usher in some exciting new talent now taking on major roles across the UK?
The show has created musical theatre stars. Being part of the Heathers family (and it really is) is a privilege. Our director Andy Fickman always says ‘you’re with the Heathers now’ and there is a special complicité that we all share. Is it hard? Do we make mistakes? Of course. Is it an adventure that has been full of love, incredible people and amazing moments. Yes. And I wouldn’t change a second of it. The thing about hit shows is they don’t go anywhere. They evolve. I can’t promise no more Heathers.