Review: CATCO'S HEAD OVER HEELS at At Riffe Center

Quirky musical a remix of differing styles

By: Apr. 04, 2022
Review: CATCO'S HEAD OVER HEELS at At Riffe Center

CATCO's presentation of the musical HEAD OVER HEELS may be the ultimate May-December romance with an age gap of nearly 400 years. The production takes Arcadia, a 16th century play written by Sir Phillip Sidney and remixes it with the music of the Go Gos, a 1980s all-girl quintet. The musical, which debuted at the Oregon Shakespearean Festival in 2015, then throws a spotlight on transgender relationships and current sexual politics.

The resulting concoction closed Sunday, April 3 after a successful three-week run at the Vern Riffe Center (77 S. High Street).

The four members of the Go Gos, Charlotte Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock, Kathy Valentine, and Jane Wiedlin, gave their blessing to the production, even making a surprise appearance at a 2018 performance.

Sidney, who died in 1586, has been strangely quiet on the subject of the musical.

The curtain peals back to reveal that all is not well in the kingdom of Arcadia. Under the rule of King Basilius (played by deviously charming Luke Bovenizer), the kingdom is in danger of losing its "beat," the savior-faire in which the city thrives, for becoming too stiff necked and traditional.

The non-binary Pythio (played by former Miss Gay Ohio, Caleb Mikayla Goins-Robinson) makes four prophecies will befall Basilius' family:

* Thy younger daughter, Philoclea (Summitt J. Starr) will bring a liar to bed. He thou shall forbid, she/he'll then assume."

*Thou elder daughter, the self-centered Pamela (Jordan Shafer), will consent to wed. She'll consummate her love but with no groom."

*"Thou with thy wife, Queen Gynecia (Kendra Lynn Lucas), adultery shall commit"

*"You will meet and make way for a better king."

The completion of each prophecy will be marked by the falling of a warning flag. When four flags are rained down on Basilius, the kingdom shall lose its "beat" and Basilius will surrender his crown.

Basilius' first blunder is forbidding Philoclea to wed her true love, goat herder and childhood friend Musidorius (Brian C. Gray), and forces the fam to take a journey to kill the person who will take over his throne. Musidorius follows close behind and takes on the disguise of female warrior Cleophila. Both Basilius and Gyncecia, who discovers Cleophila is a male, are smitten by Musidorius in disguise. The first flag falls when Musidorius reveals himself to Philocela and the two begin a relationship.

Meanwhile Pamela, who rejects suitor after suitor, reveals she really isn't into guys but favors her handmaiden Mopsa (the winsome Sha-Lemar Davis). Thus, the second prophesy falls.

The third flag tumbles to the ground when Gyncecia and Basilius both believe they are having an affair with Musidorius/Cleophilia in the darkness of a cave. Later they discover their lover and the person they cheated on are in fact the same person.

Bovenizer and Lucas are paired perfectly as a bored royal couple, who love, and yet are suspicious of, each other. Starr's strength is the way she creates her character through the facial expressions she uses when reacting to other characters and situations. Gray provides a unique male vocal to a handful of the Go Gos hits. Shafer and Davis are playful, coy, and clever in the portrayals of their characters. Liam Cronin, who plays Dametas, the long-suffering, right-hand man of Basilius and the father of Mopsa, and Goins-Robinson demand attention every time they are on stage.

The marriage of the characters are not as fraught with danger as the joining of the script and the 80s pop music. That being said, the cast handles the Shakespearian-sounding script well while their vocals and Que Jones' tight music direction of Dave Wallingford and Ryan Jones on keyboards, Drew Stedman on guitar, and Joel Steward on drums add depth and dimension to the frothy, pop-punk confections of the Go Gos.

With HEAD OVER HEELS, CATCO continues to push boundaries and provide edgy, but accessible theater. Perhaps in the near future, audiences might be treated to a mashup of OLIVER TWIST and Spandau Ballet. Just a thought.


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