BWW Review: HEAD OVER HEELS Has a Good Beat and You Can Dance to It.
Camp, corsets and Aqua Net collide in a kinetic burst of Greece lightning that meshes the intense drama of Sir Philip Sidney's 16th century literary work, The Arcadia with the seemingly frivolous power punk of The Go-Go's, a pioneering all female band from Los Angeles who began their career as a punk band before developing a more polished sound that brought them commercial success.
At first this marriage of styles seems completely off-kilter. Playing off of the popularity of prefabricated jukebox musicals and slipping ecstasy to the staid classicism of Sidney's pastoral romance, the company skillfully binds them together for a triumphant romp of musical theater.
(Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg)
King Basilius of Arcadia is quite distressed. After receiving a prophesy from the Oracle of Delphos warning that his crown will be lost, his daughters will be stolen by unworthy suitors and his wife, Gynecia will betray him, he frantically searches for a way to change his fate.
To make things even worse the king fears that he and his followers will lose 'the beat' that drives their desires, passions, hopes and dreams. Complicating things further, his oldest daughter Pamela has made a regular habit of rebuffing the offers of various suitors and his youngest, Philoclea, is madly in love with Musidoras, a local shepherd with no real prospects or upper crust pedigree. For a person of such regal patronage, like himself, none of this will do.
Worked into a tizzy by a foreboding sense of doom and frustrated by his domestic life, the king frets about keeping 'the beat' strong, Eager to rid himself of opposition and reverse his predicted fate, Basilius decides to take the show on the road and strike his enemies first.
Guided by his servant, Dametas, he begins a manic journey of family dysfunction and political intrigue that results in an adventure filled with self-discovery and personal awareness.
Conceived by Tony winner Jeff Whitty and adapted by James Magruder, Head Over Heels tears down the physical and social boundaries of the Medieval Renaissance and replaces them with the more independent and spirited morays of contemporary times. Helping them add some pizzazz to Sidney's longform narrative are The Go-Go's whose hits, Vacation, Cool Jerk, Skidmarks On My Heart (used with great effect as interstitials) Our Lips Are Sealed, Turn to You and We Got the Beat, along with two Belinda Carlisle tunes, Mad About You and Heaven Is A Place on Earth, help change the proceedings from prose to party.
Photo by Jill Ritter Lindberg
Holding court over the proceedings s Zachary Allen Farmer, whose rich voice and determination to play things straight for as long as possible, underpins the entire production. Joining him is Clayton Humburg who plays an unassuming shepherd turned Amazon warrior with great relish. Jaclyn Amber's glorious turn as Mopsa is tinged with nuanced vulnerability while Grace Langford and Melissa Felps' portrayal as Basilius' fierce and feisty daughters give things some much needed emotional heft. Joining them are Aaron Allen who plays Dametas with a fun, cartoonish zeal and Carrie Wenos Priesmeyer whose no nonsense Queen Gynecia is not to be trifled with. Ascending upon the proceedings like a Phoenix, is Tiélere Cheatem who electrifies as Pythio.
Guiding things from the serious to the surreal, directors Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy Windsor have created a totally rad mashup that explores the themes of gender, compassion, political diplomacy that delights in not taking itself too seriously. Groovy to the max.
Head over Heels is onstage at The Marcelle through March 28th. For more information visit www.newlinetheatre.com.