HEATHERS is finally here - a raucous roller-coaster rom-com with a very dark side shown by lashings of black comedy.

It is based on the 1989 film starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater which gained a cult following.

The same can now be said of the West End hit co-produced by a man who knows his audience - Bill Kenwright and a top-notch director in Andy Fickman.

The bright sets of the Westberg High School, sparkling colourful costumes and sheer energy of the cast make this a fun-packed two and half hours.

Laugh-out-loud moments join gasps of disbelief as the plot twists and turns looking at issues from suicide, gun control, homosexuality, bullying and bulimia.

Wirral Globe:

Production still from 'Heathers - The Musical' at Liverpool Empire

The 20 songs certainly help the narrative nicely along with up tempo melodies and ballads sitting side-by-side. Highlights include Beautiful and Shine a Light which has some illuminating props.

And choreopgrapher Gary Lloyd makes the most of his high-energy multi-tasking cast with some visual treats - notably the cheerleaders in fine flow.

Heathers is the flip-side to the boy-meets-girl, feel good genres of Grease.

The American dream is replaced by the dysfunctional US teen.

Our heroine Veronica Sawyer (Rebecca Wickes) wants to be part of the Heathers enigma - a trio of acid-tongued '80s power-dressing, beautiful bullies with shoulder pads.

EnTer a cool dude rebel with a cause - JD Jason Deed (Simon Gordon) who has a pretty stark solution to his love interest Veronica's problematic social agenda.

The three Heathers are led by Maddison Firth as Chandler who - like other members of this cracking, confident cast - appear in that other musical sensation Six.

Maddison commands attention with every scene and her timing is A plus.

It is very funny, sexy and at times near-the-knuckle all of which is lapped up by the generally young audience who seem to know every line and sight gag following in that great user-friendly tradition of The Rocky Horror Show.

The musical is also about true friendship - it's not all doom and wicked gloom.

The Empire has re-opened and Heathers is just the right show to bring in an auduece ready to let their hair down.

It's great to hear the venue ringing to the sound of laughter and joy again.

This UK and Ireland tour opened to a standing ovation.

Heathers is a refreshing change from the usual all American prom-inspired musical.

It will be around for many semesters to come.

Globe verdict - four stars

A Super Shock 'n'roll musical

It's on until August 28

Tickets from 0844871 7615 or www.atgtickets.com/liverpool