Skip to main content
Arts and Entertainment Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 2 years ago

Players Centre's 'Head Over Heels' has got the beat

Their whole world's out of sync, but this bawdy, amped up jukebox musical is terrific fun
by: Marty Fugate Contributor

Looking for a gender-fluid, 16th century, pastoral sex farce set to the hit songs of The Go-Go’s? Then Jeff Whitty and James Magruder’s “Head Over Heels” at the Players Centre is the musical for you.

The action transpires in Arcadia (ancient Greece, not cracker Florida.). The plot is freely adapted from Sir Philip Sidney’s bucolic romance of the same name.

Once upon a time, there was a happy kingdom called Arcadia. Its inhabitants all grooved to the same beat. But something’s out of step. King Basilus (Kelly Leissler) gets some bad news from Pythio (Luke Manual McFatrich), the gender nonconforming oracle at Delphi. In typical oracular fashion, it’s a riddle that only makes sense after the bad news actually happens. But, to avoid his fate, the king takes his family on the road. Musidorus (Jason Ellis), the shepherd who’s been wooing his eldest daughter, isn’t welcome.

Musidorus (Jason Ellis) and Philoclea (Lexi Lowther) are together as they are meant to be Who'll wear the pants in the family? They'll play it by ear.

On Pythio’s advice, he cross-dresses as an Amazon (the female warrior, not the website) to crash the party. It works, and Philoclea (Lexi Lowther) loves him even more. Surprise, surprise! All of Pythio’s murky prophecies come true. Love finds a way, and traditional gender roles be damned. As noted, this all transpires to the beat of the Go-Go’s and Belinda Carlisle chart-toppers.

Plot aside, this is a jukebox rock musical. Director/choreographer Brian Finnerty delivers a full-throttle, high-energy, hard-rocking performance. Kudos also to music director Michelle Kasanovsky and a smoking-hot band. This is a great show. If you closed your eyes the whole time, you’d still enjoy it.

The eye candy goes sweetly with the ear candy. David Walker’s costumes have a sexy, creative verve. (Think Elizabethan cuffs and collars with 1980s color and fabric.) Ken Junkins’ playful set is somewhere on the border of ancient Greece and Venice, California. It works.

Leissler’s King Basilus is a smarmy, evasive bureaucrat who wants to maintain the status quo, despite any irritating prophecies. Andrea Keddell’s Queen Gynecia sees right through him. McFatrich is a hoot as the non-binary oracle. His characterization recalls a slightly less threatening Queen Ursula from “The Little Mermaid.” Malevolent or benevolent? You really don’t know until the end. Ellis’ Musidoris is a goofy innocent who (in “Rocky Horror” fashion) doesn’t know what he’s in for. As his beloved Philoclea, Lowther conveys a discordant insecurity. (She’s pretty but acts like she’s plain.) As her sister Pamela, Debbi White conveys a diva’s entitlement—and ultimately rejects all her male suitors for her handmaid, Mopsa (Caitlin Ellis). Prophecies and predilections aside, everybody winds up with their one true love.

And that’s what this musical is all about.

Love, baby.

And, as Harlan Ellison once said, “Love ain’t nothing but sex misspelled.” “Head Over Heels” definitely sexes it up. In terms of randy implications, imagine a dial that goes from 1 to 10. Let’s say “Bleach Blanket Bingo” is a “1”and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a “10.” “Head Over Heels” dials it up to 11. ’Nuff said. Philoclea (Lexi Lowther)

The actors in this show definitely love what they’re doing. There’s an unrestrained glee on every face.

And they’ve all got the beat.

Join the Neighborhood! Our 100% local content helps strengthen our communities by delivering news and information that is relevant to our readers. Support independent local journalism by joining the Observer's new membership program — The Newsies — a group of like-minded community citizens, like you. Be a Newsie.

Related Stories