Some hits from the go-go songbook are transferred to an Elizabethan prose poem and you get a lot of stupid things
It's really hard to laugh when someone holds a gun to your head. That's how the Go-Go feels in "Head Over Heels", an over-the-top, over-the-top and most exaggerated production directed by Michael Mayer. From the scenes and costumes to the performance style, the basic principle seems to be: less is boring and more is never enough. No doubt, the oracle of Delphi (played here by the mischievous peppermint), it is a miracle that at least part of the joke comes through in Jeff Whitty's original book.
The story is credited to Sir Philip Sidney, an Elizabethan soneteer whose 1
And it's a sweet story as well – Young lovers to lose themselves in the forest, to play with replacement lovers, but in the end to unite with their own true loved ones. As Sir Philip and Shakespeare put it, the partner lovers were all boys and girls. In this modern version, gender identities are much more fluid.
A pleasurable version of the go-go mega-hit "We Got the Beat" takes us to the enchanted kingdom of Arcadia, where the good king is Basilius (Jeremy Kushnier, nice baritone) and his faithful but bored wife Gynecia (the divine Rachel York), were dulled sexually. But just as the king and queen lose that loving feeling, their two daughters awake to their own.
Bonnie Milligan, who produced this select role at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, gushes with happiness (and manages to uphold it) as the Generous Older Daughter, Princess Pamela. Convinced of her gorgeous beauty ("Beautiful"), the love girl rejects all her worshipers, which causes her parents grief, but produces much laughter.
Meanwhile her allegedly simple, but actually sweet younger sister Philoclea (Alexandra Socha, who sings sweetly and dares to play her part with subtlety), falls in love with a shepherd. Musidorus, the shepherd, is not a big prize, but Andrew Durand tries himself. He tries, tries.
Pamela and Philoclea obey obediently and leave Arcadia with the rest of the court ("Get up and go") the king misrepresents a horrible warning from the oracle of Delphi. This is Peppermint's miracle that of Arianne Phillips for she did not stifle her designed voluminous costumes. But as soon as the entire court, including the king's viceroy, Dametas (the eternally reliable Tom Alan Robbins) and his beautiful daughter, Mopsa (newcomer Taylor Iman Jones), are deep in the forest, there is always a chance that they will be devoured from the Scenes (Julian Crouch) or dazzled by the missing lighting (Kevin Adams). "Vacation" drowns Mopsa in kitsch as she makes her way through a mermaid-teeming sea to the island of Lesbos. A delightful example of all this glaring excess: the Temple of the Oracle, which Andrew Lazarov hung up with really scary projections of writhing snakes. ("Slither hither," the oracle invites us.)
At some point on this endless journey, the characters begin to elude the ever-growing sets and manage to fall in love, or something like that. Finally, some of the go-go songs fit into the book scenes. Pamela and Mopsa discover themselves in "Automatic Rainy Day". The King and Queen spark their love in "This Old Feeling". Philoclea opens her heart to Musidorus in "Here You Are". And Peppermint leads the whole society in a presentation of "Heaven is a place on earth", that's worth the wait.
When everyone was at the head of Act II, when everyone had been around for so long, they all lost touch with the real world, the title track. "Head Over Heels" actually makes sense. But the show never recovers from the ever-present feeling of exhaustion. It's the effort to make the stilted Spencer-Liff choreography seem vague. There is a constant struggle to push songs to places where they do not fit. And then there's the burden of reconfiguring character dynamics and tweaking traditional gender differences until the show agrees with a bright notion of ideological transgression. Much push and pull goes into the work of making a musical – but this one shows the tension.