Head Over Heels: Go . . . Go Go’s

Peppermint and Ensemble

 

By Sandi Durell

 

You might be wondering what the music of the 1980s girl group the Go-Go’s has to do with Shakespearean iambic pentameter styling from Sir Philip Sidney’s 1580 English pastoral poem Arcadia! This fairytale jukebox musical, helmed by Michael Mayer (American Idiot, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), has a book by Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) and a plot out of James Magruder’s adaptation of Arcadia. It takes a while before you can settle in and get it and if not, this one’s definitely not your thing. Or if you are a hard and fast Go-Go’s fan and are expecting to be delighted with music you’ve treasured, well . . . confusing.

 

Taylor Iman Jones (c)

 

When the eldest daughter, it’s all about me Pamela, (a sensational Bonnie Milligan) tosses aside many eligible gents seeking her hand, and constructs a poem of her desires of an ideal mate using a word that rhymes with “China” . . . the direction seems pretty clear. The younger, more loving daughter Princess Philoclea (sweet Alexandra Socha) is in love with the awkward shepherd Musidorus (the wildly talented Andrew Durand) but he’s tossed aside by her parents King Basilius (subtle Jeremy Kushnier) and Queen Gynecia (perfection – Rachel York) until he appears disguised as an Amazon to “re-gender myself in a flowing wig and garments,” and infiltrate the newly formed union between Pamela and her handmaiden Mopsa (in this production played by Arica Jackson, usually portrayed by Taylor Iman Jones). Expect to hear “Mad About You,” “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” “Cool Jerk,” “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “Head Over Heels.”

 

Andrew Durand, Alexandra Socha

Rachel York, Jeremy Kushnier (c)

 

The real thrust of the story, however, is the progressive message ringing loud and clear, brought home by the Oracle of Delphi, Pythio, the fabulous Peppermint (RuPaul’s Drag Race), demanding to be described as a “non-binary plural…they” and whose bio bills her as the first transgender woman to create a principal role in this Broadway debut. With fire and brimstone, she makes her predictions that all come to pass.

 

Bonnie Milligan (c)

 

You can’t deny the high level vocal performances, nor comedic takes by York, Kushnier, Durand, Milligan and Socha, or the hi-energy robotic flowing movements choreographed by Spencer Liff (Falsettos, Spring Awakening, Hedwig). Tom Kitt, a Pulitizer and Tony Award winning composer of Next to Normal, has orchestrated and arranged and there’s an all-female band.

 

The flow is strained, the antics, one-liners and zaniness way out silly and long-winded; sometimes the songs fit and sometimes not but this mishmash is one cleverly designed comedy that can’t help but make you sit up and take notice.

 

Photos: Joan Marcus

 

Head Over Heels, Hudson Theater, 145 West 44 St. – 2 hours, 15 minutes (one intermission) www.headoverheelsthemusical.com

 

 

 

 

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