Audiences Enjoy Two Hour Royal Escapade Set To Go-Go's Music
By: Jeff Walker, Entertainment Writer
Very seldom do 16th century old England and iconic pop music from the 1980's cross paths, unless it's in 'Head Over Heels' (HOH) a 'witty' jukebox musical from mind of playwright Jeff Whitty. Adapted from the pastoral romance 'The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia', HOH centers around the misadventures of an Arcadian royal family, and their quest to keep the 'beat', aka the mojo that provides harmony throughout the kingdom, all set to pop music of the Go-Go's, and lead singer Belinda Carlisle.
Whether it's the 1500's or the era of MTV, apparently the world has always struggled with sexual identity. Gay, straight, lesbian, trans, and cross dressing innuendos run rampart through HOH. In 2019, alternative lifestyles might be less threatening than they were in merry old England, but a madcap musical celebrating coming of age sexuality is amusing nonetheless.
The cast and crew from Footlight Players do a nice job of bringing Whitty and James Magruder's Elizabethan farce to life at the Queen Street Playhouse. While the royal family do their best to keep their kingdom upbeat, eccentricities and sexual urges abound in Arcadia. The king and queen are at a romantic bypass, with their two daughters flippant about liaisons and mismatched lovers. The punk rock new wave music of the Go-Go's seems to be a vehicle for this crazy musical, with "Head Over Heels' being among the all girl group's biggest hits.
With an ensemble cast excelling in choreography and joint sing-a-longs, eight main characters rise to the top. Xan Rogers returns to the Queen Street stage as King Basilius. Rogers provides just the right amount of pomp and circumstance his character requires, with a smidge of bravado. Making her Footlight Players debut, Sara Allende is equally capable as feisty, yet calculating Queen Glynecia. Allende has an air of confidence, and sexual frustration that makes the husband and wife dynamic inviting.
Rebecca Weatherby and Madelyn Knight respectively wrap themselves up nicely as Philoclea and Pamela. Although the sisters share a genetic bond, their characters embrace their youthful sexuality as polar opposites. Weatherby presents the younger sibling just as sweet and innocent as the stage play expects, with Knight embodying Pamela as the more spunky, self absorbed persona, turning away would be suitors, unaware that her one true love has been tending to her needs for years.
Local school teacher Ariana Snowden makes her first appearance with Footlight, and is sensually delightful as Pamela's longtime handmaiden Mopsa. Snowden reflects an understated brashness, making Mopsa quite likeable. MUSC research specialist Michael Okas steps into the role Philoclea's long time love interest Musidorus, representing him as the enamored, young and simpleminded beau, fully capable of accepting his emerging feminine side.
Rounding out the main cast is Ian Bonner as the king's longtime servant Dametas. Bonner brings about a good bit of aloofness and defined uncertainty to the role. His counterpart is masterfully played by Kay Thorn, who portrays oracle Pythio with all the over the top bombast the character demands. With outrageous attire and a booming voice Pythio commands the stage in frequent appearances, allowing Thorn to shine in the role. Double kudos to Thorn for tackling the musical direction while appearing onstage.
A shout out to Emma Scott with Charleston Costume Design & Rental for dressing the cast in century appropriate attire, befitting royalty and their loyal subjects. Bodice and colorful garb flow throughout. Ken Barnett designed a workable set with easy to maneuver columns that make scene changes by the actors easy to facilitate. Choreographer Nakeisha Daniel should be proud of her addition to HOH, arranging a dozen actors skillfully through dance numbers, especially the very lively opener 'We Got The Beat'.
'Head Over Heels' is a comedic look at sexuality in the time or the greatest playwrights of all time. The musical is meant to be part sexual awareness and tongue & cheek. The cast with Footlight Players under the artful direction of Kyle Barnette make two hours at the theatre a pleasurable and often titillating experience, akin to taking part in game night at Rupaul's house. HOH the musical is fun romp for open minded adults and those who love the Go-Go's.