Department of Performing Arts presents ‘Head Over Heels’
The annual fall musical was a hit among audiences
From Oct. 20-28, the Greenberg Theatre was transformed into ancient Arcadia for this year’s jubilant fall musical, “Head Over Heels.”
Directed by Carl Menninger with music direction by Kristin Stowell and choreography by Cate Ginsberg, the production was met with abundant ovations and accolades from audiences.
“Head Over Heels,” premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2015 and had a Broadway debut in 2018. Theis story is one of love, triumph and family, featuring the music of The Go-Go’s. The toe-tapping hit, punctuated by widely recognizable songs such as “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” paired with classical Shakespearean language, was a celebration of unrequited love and the evergreen nature of classical stories.
“The text was peppered with exciting words, and I enjoyed getting to think about every single word as it happened in the moment,” Laura Dodge, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences who played Philoclea, said.
“Head Over Heels” is inspired by the centuries-old story of “The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia” written by Sir Philip Sidney. The story follows the Arcadian royal family, led by Basilius (Jared Kirschenbaum) and, Queen Gynecia (Robin Kane) and their desperate effort to prevent outrageous prophecies from the villainous Pythio — also known as the Oracle of Delphi — played by Liv DeLorenzo.
“Everyone on stage with me is just so wonderful and talented, and I was always having fun,” Jillian Skara, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences who played Pamela, said.
Pythio’s ominous monologue included, but was not limited to, threats of adultery and destruction of the kingdom. These prophecies, as stated in the song “We Got the Beat,” would uproot the order — or “beat” — and send Arcadia into complete disarray.
Of course, this journey is not without romance. Philoclea, the youngest daughter, and the impoverished shepherd, Musidorous (Jason Zuckerman) have a secret love throughout the musical.
After a whirlwind encounter between Musidourous and Pythio following Basilius’s disapproval of his proposal to Philoclea, Musidourous is turned into a feminine Amazon warrior Cleophila, who accompanies the family and adds an element of ironic chaos to their journey.
“What this role [and show] has taught me is that loving someone isn’t weak in any way,” Dodge said. “I think I get caught up in the girl-bossification of the world and I really do forget that simply enjoying something or someone doesn’t have to be embarrassing.”
The show’s emotional ballads — such as “Beautiful” and “Good Girl” — struck a balance with the hilarious “Mad About You” and “Vacation,” in addition to a variety of jokes that left the audience blushing with knowing grins.
“When you rehearse for so many weeks you forget that much of the show is hilarious,” Menninger said.
Another unique aspect of this tripartite love story was its inclusion of a queer relationship — the one between Pamela and Mopsa (Laurel Brown), the daughter of Dametas (Charles Sinche), in their impassioned performance of “Automatic Rainy Day.”
Skara and Brown beautifully portray a friends-to-lovers romance arc that goes from tense to wholesome and provides a breath of fresh air forof LGBTQ+ representation in musical theater.
The whirlwind plot was accented with poignantly enthusiastic and classic musical theater choreography from the dance ensemble who understudied each female lead as well. The esteemed quartet featured Dance Captain Abby Altemose, Hannah Briceno, Julia Lupi and Rebecca Morris.
Each member of the dance ensemble played multiple roles in the show, such as residents of Arcadia, Pythios’ serpentine cronies and even Musidorous’ sheep.
With a mix of contemporary, jazz and hip-hop styles accented with high kicks, elegant leaps and impressive acrobatic skills, the dancers brought an explosive element of excitement to the story.
Each element of the production made “Head Over Heels” spectacular. Stunning cast vocals, dazzling choreography by the dance ensemble, Sydney Moore’s innovative costume design, the grandeur of the Athenian-style set and the orchestra’s expert use of musical motifs make for a cohesive and entertaining show.
“I'm proud of the way the cast and crew worked so well together and had such a positive attitude throughout the process,” Mennginger said. “They were all committed to challenging themselves as well as finding the joy.”
This article was edited by Sara Winick, Patricia McGee and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Charlie Mennuti.