Directed by Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), the joyful production dials the camp to 11; this is a show with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, except when it's in someone else's mouth.
HEAD OVER HEELS Broadway Reviews
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Head Over Heels does go retro, but waaay retro, to achieve something rarer and wonderfully strange. They've found the Venn overlap among "We Got the Beat," LGBTQ awakening, and Elizabethan allegory on humane statecraft.
To enjoy Head Over Heels, which offers quite a lot to enjoy, it is probably best to kick up your heels and put your head on hold. That's not to say that this saucy, boisterous musical doesn't have a brainy side, starting with its ambitious crossbreeding of four time periods: It grafts a 2010s queer sensibility onto songs from the 1980s-by the all-girl pop-punk quintet the Go-Go's (plus two hits from lead singer Belinda Carlisle's solo career)-and fits them into a 16th-century story that is set in ancient Greece. The dialogue, in iambic pentameter liberally sprinkled with thou and thee, contrasts amusingly with the unornamented lyrics of such go-to Go-Go's bops as "Vacation," "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "We Got the Beat."
You would think that a sexually polymorphous musical that combines a Renaissance pastoral romance with the songs of the 1980s California rock group the Go-Go's would at the very least be a hoot, a show that could get sloppy drunk on its own outrageousness. Yet "Head Over Heels," which opened on Thursday night at the Hudson Theater, feels as timid and awkward as the new kid on the first day of school.
For better or worse, Broadway's Head Over Heels is stuck with being known as "the Go-Go's musical" - better because of the good will floating on stage with all those lighter-than-air hits by Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, et.al., worse because the hard-working new production can't seem to keep itself from popping those effervescence tune bubbles one by one.
But the universe of Head Over Heels is a forgiving one, a world where love of all stripes truly does conquer all, and despite doing some real violence before the play is through, Basilius is shown mercy. "Under my supervision," says Gynecia to her chastened husband, "I predict a gentler man will over time evolve." She's not just talking about Basilius: In Head Over Heels, the future isn't female per se, but it's definitely not male either. Where gender, love, and governance are concerned, the future is free - free of the old definitions, the old order, the old beat. The straight and narrow path is a big fat dead end, and if the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend toward justice, Head Over Heels joyously insists that it keep bending.
A lot of harder-edged Go-Go's fans who find their way through the door will wonder what on earth all of these silly theater people are doing with their beloved music, not just because it feels so far removed from its original pioneering context but also because the sensibility here so doubles down on fluttery theatricality at the expense of raw, charged, visceral, feminist pop.
Michael Mayer ("Spring Awakening") has done what he can to put a directorial shine on "Head Over Heels." Spencer Liff's choreography is excitingly volatile and the sets and costumes are expensively fancy, while the five-piece pit band is as hot as a runaway atomic pile. Bonnie Milligan, a delightful performer with pipes to die for who previously appeared in the 2015 production, nails best-in-show honors as the horrifically vain Princess Pamela, who searches in vain for a suitable swain, then belatedly figures out that she's a lesbian (GASP!). Everyone else in the cast takes care of business, and if you really, really like the Go-Go's, you might possibly find the results tolerable. I doubt there are still enough Go-Go's fans out there to make "Head Over Heels" a hit, but stranger things have happened on Broadway.
The convoluted story revolves around a king and queen, their two daughters and a shepherd love interest. Their lives do indeed turn head over heels as King Bacilius visits the Oracle Pythio who portends a series of calamitous events. It gets awfully complicated and audiences may tune out before it's all resolved. But I'm not even sure it matters because if you're willing to suspend your disbelief, under Michael Mayer's spirited direction, there's so much good-natured talent on the stage you may just give in to the frivolity.
It's really hard to laugh when somebody's holding a gun to your head. That's the way this Go-Go's feels in "Head Over Heels," an over-written, over-designed, and generally overdone production directed by Michael Mayer. From the sets and costumes to the performance style, the basic principle seems to be: Less is boring and more is never enough. Thanks, no doubt, to the Oracle of Delphi (played here by the impishly funny Peppermint), it's a miracle that at least some of the wit in Jeff Whitty's original book gets through.
If you have trouble imagining songs like "Vacation" and "Cool Jerk" fitting into a scenario depicting a royal family's romantic complications, you still will after seeing this relentlessly frothy musical, for which the term "check your brain at the door" could have been invented. The farcical, gender-fluid shenanigans are as campy as things get on Broadway. And that's saying something.
The new musical "Head Over Heels," which opened Thursday on Broadway, takes the songs of '80s American girl group the Go-Go's, plops them in a British story from the 16th century and adds a bunch of modern, self-referential jokes. It's an idea that's so crazy, it just might work! It doesn't. This indulgent show is wackier than it is fun, and elicits more "huh?" than "ha". Worse, it treats the catchy pop music like a side of spinach.
Um, no. Contrary to the affirmatively cheery chant of its opening number, "Head Over Heels," a new jukebox musical on Broadway in which the hit songs of the all-female 1980s pop-punk band The Go-Go's are inserted into a ridiculous Elizabethan-era pastiche, has not "got the beat." That probably got lost long ago in the development of this oddball property