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BWW Review: HEAD OVER HEELS Pre-Broadway Premiere

BWW Review: HEAD OVER HEELS Pre-Broadway Premiere

San Francisco's Curran Theater is playing host to Head Over Heels, an Elizabethan farce and romp featuring the 80s pop-rock music of the Go-Go's. The all-girl band emerged out of the LA punk scene of the late 70s, but they soon found their groove in the driving beat of the power pop songs they wrote and played themselves. The catchy melodies, simple arrangements, heavy drums and prominent guitar riffs quickly took them to the top of the charts while also making a star of lead singer Belinda Carlisle. (Some of her solo hits are featured in the show.)

Given this cache of American hits ("We Got the Beat," "Our Lips Are Sealed," "Vacation") it seems a bit of stretch to land the tunes in Merry Olde England. Jeff Whitty, who conceived and wrote the original book (that was then adapted by James Magruder) based his iambic pentameter libretto on a 16th-century story by Sir Philip Sidney called "The Arcadia." Unlike Hamilton, which had the nation's founder's talking and rapping in modern English, Head Over Heels, stumbles back and forth between the cool, Go-Go's pop lyrics and Shakespearean-esque dialogue. It confuses more than delights.

What does work is the way that very modern LGBTQ and non-binary themes are addressed, interspersed as they are with classical farce tropes of mistaken identities, disguises, deceptions and very contrived and ridiculous circumstances. Laughter abounds.

Peppermint makes her Broadway debut as the dashing oracle-dispensing-diva Pythio, who plants a prophecy of doom on the Royal family of Arcadia, and she is nothing short of perfection. Woe to them that loseth the beat! King Basilius (played with ludicrous intent by Jeremy Kushnier) is determined to outwit the curse and protect his restless Queen Gynecia (a stunning Rachel York) and their daughters Pamela (Bonnie Milligan's comedic timing is spot on) and Philoclea's (Alexandra Socha).

In order to put distance between them and their pending doomsday prophecy, the entire family, along with the King's Viceroy Dametas (Tom Alan Robbins) and his daughter Mopsa (Taylor Iman Jones) embark on a long journey and quickly run into Musidorus a shepherd disguised as a buxom Amazon. Musidorus is determined to win the hand of Philoclea and we're led to believe that disguising himself as a woman will do the trick.

Soon enough, slight glances are mistaken for come-hither looks, notes are misread, dark caves cause mistaken identities and sexual deprivation goes hand-in-glove with sexual awakenings! (Director Michael Mayer, along with choreographer Spencer Liff give us a hilarious pantomime sexual release scene to the tune of "Heaven is a Place on Earth." It's a definite highlight.)

All in all, Head over Heels is a fun show with plenty of laughs coupled with the iconic tunes of the Go-Go's. It's not an 80s love fest but you'll enjoy hearing the Go-Go's hits sung by a dynamic, entertaining and talented cast.

Head Over Heels
Book adapted by James Magruder from original book conceived by Jeff Whitty, based on "The Arcadia" by Sir Philip Sidney
Music and lyrics by the Go-Go's
Now thru May 6
The Curran Theater

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From This Author Linda Hodges

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