Falling ‘Head Over Heels’ for Theatre Horizon’s Newest Production

Theater Review


John C. Hawthorne

Promotional shot from Theater Horizon that displays authentic queer joy.

Hope Rose Mauch, Editor In-Chief

When going to see live theater, I tend to be in a good mood. I grew up in and around the theater, so I love seeing a live show.  For the new musical “Head Over Heels,” I was ecstatic walking into the theater. The energy in the building felt welcoming and the lobby just felt like a celebration. 

“Head Over Heels,” which just ended its run last Sunday at Theatre Horizon, portrays queer people in a real light with no real stereotypes. The show was said to be a celebration of queer joy, and in my personal experience, a queer production can only be done really well or really poorly: there is no gray area.

What really stood out to me is how the characters evolve over the course of the show. None of the characters knew who they really were until the end. In other queer plays or musicals, the characters are like, “Here I am, the gay one!” but “Head Over Heels” doesn’t do this, and doesn’t over-romanticize being queer, and I loved that. 

I identify as non-binary and there is something truly liberating about seeing a non-binary character that is just existing. The character’s identity was addressed a bit but never directly affected the plot. To me, this was a breath of fresh air and I wish more productions would do this. 

The show is spoken in old English but is modernized by the costumes and representation. Think of it as the 1996 “Romeo and Juliet” with Leonardo DiCaprio. The stage is set with a paint-splattered floor with pink and purple tulle hanging from the ceiling. One of the scenes was done in black light, an effect I have never seen done before in a theater. 

“Head Over Heels” is based on “The Arcadia,” a 1593 play by Sir Philip Sidney but was conceived by Jeff Whitty and finally adapted into a musical by James Magruder. During a Q&A for the audience after the musical, actor Pax Resser spoke about how the playwright allowed the director and actors to make little changes to the script to better fit the overall tone. 

The show incorporated music from “The Go-Go’s” and took inspiration from the rock group itself since it was a famous all-female-identifying group. The performance was also heavily influenced by the 80s with flamboyant costumes and set design.  The opening number  “We Got The Beat” sent the room right to the kingdom of Arcadia. 

The musical follows king Basilius and Queen Gynecia, and their two children Pamela and Piloclea. Accompanied by their two personal servants, Basilius is called upon by the Oracle Pythio to receive a prophecy. Baslilus and his servant Dametas travel to see Pythio. Once the four prophecies are given, Basilius decides that he has to move his whole kingdom to avoid the problems associated with the prophecies. While on this journey, Pamela and Philoclea find their true loves and eventually their true selves. This in turn only makes the four prophecies come true. 

The love story between Pamela and her personal maid Mopsa is portrayed beautifully and feels very real. The actors spoke out about how they had an intimacy counselor to help them better portray how to interact with each other in a real and consenting way, allowing them to be comfortable with kissing on stage.

“Head Over Heels” is a journey of self-discovery. While on the outside, it might seem just like a kingdom finding a new land to live on, the way all the characters evolve keeps the plot moving. 

What I loved most about this idea of self-discovery is that there is a change over time. Musidorus, who is Philoclea’s love interest, becomes a new version of himself. He dresses in drag, and once he becomes this alter ego, he is much more outgoing and comfortable in his own skin. After the show, many of the actors spoke out about how working on “Head Over Heels” helped them realize that even when there is hate in the world they are able to still be their authentic selves.

“Head Over Heels” is like no show I have ever seen before. I have never been able to see a musical with so much positivity and love. Being a fan of musicals, I can honestly say this production was a spectacular display of why all young people should be introduced to theater.