REVIEW: Fueled by Go-Gos pop-punk nostalgia, The Umbrella Stage Company’s ‘Head Over Heels’ a frothy farce with a unique beat
The expression, ‘Out with the old, in with the new’ takes on new meaning for Umbrella Stage Company’s dynamic musical, Head Over Heels, a gender-bending jukebox musical comedy which includes a case of mistaken identity that integrates the renaissance with contemporary themes and the 80s in Arcadia, a land that thrives on a beat. If that seems like a lot, it’s because this ambitious show tackles a lot in its approximately 2-hour time frame.
With resourceful direction by Brian Boruta, The Umbrella Stage Company presents Head Over Heels the Musical live and in person at the beautifully-renovated Umbrella Arts Center, 40 Stow Street in Concord, MA through Sunday, May 8. This show may not be appropriate for young children. Click here for more information at for tickets.
Who else to handle a beat but the Go-Gos! Following a string of jukebox musicals such as Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia! (featuring music from Abba), Movin’ Out (featuring music from Billy Joel), Good Vibrations (featuring music from the Beach Boys), Moulin Rouge and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (both which deliver covers of contemporary pop songs), 80s pop princesses the Go-Gos handle this production’s unique beat. This lighthearted show highlights many of the Go-Gos snappy, feel-good numbers such as Vacation, Our Lips are Sealed, Head Over Heels, and We Got the Beat along with some lesser known tracks that don’t land as well.
Head Over Heels is lively and cheerful in presentation from overhead neon lights, versatile surrounding white columns, and a live band veiled behind translucent curtains onstage by set designer Janie Howland to bold and bright period costumes in pink, green, and yellow weaving 80s glam with a rock-n-roll edge by Brian Simon and Johnny Cagno to the rollicking, up-tempo choreography by Lara Finn Banister.
Based loosely on Sir Phillip Sidney’s The Arcadia, Head Over Heels is a farce that follows a few Arcadian love stories with one taking a cue from Shakespeare as love struck shepherd Musidorus, portrayed by John Breen, must disguise himself in order to gain approval to marry Princess Pilocleas, portrayed by Temma Beaudrea. Beaudrea and Breen have a brimming, awkward, and excitable chemistry as they fight not only the royal rules, but the predictions from a mysterious oracle that ultimately sees the kingdom’s demise unless things change. Meanwhile, Philocleas’s sister, Pamela, portrayed with humorous narcissism by Bri Ryder, is proclaimed fairest in the land, but a groom might not be what she has her sights on after all.
Damon Singletary as King Basilius brings gravitas and humor to the king’s bombastic nature while Kate Pickett’s flirty and dry sarcasm makes Gynecia a scene stealer. Robert Saoud as Dametas portrays the sympathetic and seemingly sole voice of reason. While the majority of the characters are so fixated on what each of them wants, Dametas and Kai Clifton, a commanding presence as Pythio, may be the only ones capable of seeing the bigger picture. Singletary and Saoud deliver some amusing scenes together as they share differing outlooks on this kingdom’s shaky ground.
The humor ranges from irreverent to absurd to charming. Head over Heels makes some deliberate and clever points in its storytelling, but can get more fixated on what each character stands for rather than giving the characters more depth. However, If you enjoy a frivolous farce dipped in 80s nostalgia, this “trifle” as Sir Phillip Sidney has called his prose, this one may be for you.
The Umbrella Stage Company presents Head Over Heels the Musical live and in person at the beautifully-renovated Umbrella Arts Center, 40 Stow Street in Concord, MA through Sunday, May 8. This show may not appropriate for young children. Click here for more information at for tickets.