Head Over Heels at The Hudson Theater started out with much energy and excitement for the opening song, “We Got the Beat.” The show was based on the Go-Go’s songs and the performance had excellent choreography. The show’s main nexus was based around the king of Arcadia, Basilius (Jeremy Kushnier), and his family. The king is looking for a suitor for his cherubic Pamela (Alexandra Socha), but she is not interested in a man. Her younger sister Philoclea is interested in a boy, however, Musidourus(Andrew Durand), a shepherd who is of no royal blood. This leads to a problem because the King will not allow it. The Queen, Gynecia (Rachel York), does not commit to anything. She goes through motions without any conflict. She sees a lot but says nothing as she would rather not rock the boat.
The family travels to Bohemia as the oracle of Delphi ( Peppermint), (yes that’s his/or her name), predicts the older daughter will marry a women. Pretty rash prediction since it is the Middle Ages. Yet, the family goes on a long trip to Bohemia just inthis point, the musical is pretty funny with Musidorus dressing up like a girl to follow his young love into the desert. The shepherd is liked, (a little too much) by the King, Pamela, and the Queen. The tunes by the Go-Go’s are very effective along the play lines, but it is not enough. The book is just too stupid and silly. The show starts off campy then get’s ridiculously campy. It is unfortunate because this musical has some of the best lighting, dancing, and scenic design I have ever seen in Theater.
Kevin Adams does a masterful job at lighting this show. From the disco strobes to the patio type lighting, Adams gets what this show needs to keep it upbeat and fun. Julian Crouch is also terrific in the scenic design. From the king’s castle to the drawing room to the king’s court to the scenes in the desert, Crouch’s Scenery is spectacular. The choreography, by Spencer Liff, captures the mood and personality of this musical. The singing and dancing is all great. The only thing that does not work here is James Magruder’s book. It is confusing to have the play in old English. It is not necessary for what should have been a lay up for the writer to make this musical successful. The other thing that was confusing is that the King’s viceroy, Tom Alan Robbins, who is white, has a black daughter (Taylor Iman Jones), which confuses the audience. It takes a long time to decipher what her relationship is to this show.
The show should have focused more on making the book a success. Head Over Heels had a plethora of seasoned actors and singers as well as great dancers. All the extra benefits, such as great Go-Go’s songs and the scenery and lighting could have made this show a beautiful performance. Instead, the weak story line left us hoping for the show to get better and stronger. But instead, it got weaker and more stupid as time went by. Add the old English dialogue to the mix and the show becomes far to confusing to an already weak book. Throw in the over the top campiness and we are left with at best, an average show. The show would have been better off throwing a lighter script at us and letting us enjoy all the other wonderful things that it had to offer.