|Taylor Iman Jones opens Head Over Hells with a snap and a bang
The word exuberant seems designed for this evening of entertainment that will put a smile on your face; a smile that doesn’t leave until hours after the curtain comes down. It is headed by a trio of young women who discover their strength and their loves. The voice of these three will stun you as they grow to take over the stage.
The story, for those of us not up to date on 16th century pastoral romances, is thus. The King of Arcadia faces a prophecy from the Oracle of Delphi that he will lose his kingdom after 4 conditions come to pass. Two concerning his daughters and two concerning him. To avoid this fate, he takes the entire court on a fanciful march into the woods on a flimsy lie. The King and Queen (Broadway veterans Jeremy Kushner and Rachel York) set out bickering in word and tune.
They are joined by their daughters Pamela (Bonnie Mulligan) and Philoclea (Alexandra Socha), the subject of two of the prophecies. Pamela has rejected all suitors to date and depends on her servant Mopsa (Taylor Iman Jones) for company. Philoclea, alternatively, has had her love, lowly shepherd Musidorus (Andrew Durand) rejected by her father. These three women, Bonnie Mulligan, Alexandra Socha and Taylor Iman Jones give Head Over Heels its fantastic voice. They can sing sweetly or belt out the songs of the Go-gos with heart, edge and flair. They can sound like the young lady rockers when they want to and yet can interpret songs in a way you never heard, so that words tell a fresh story. These three are what kicks Head Over Heels into overdrive.
Andrew Durand carries much of the comic weight (with an amazing assist from Bonnie Mulligan) as Musidorus who will go to any lengths for his beloved. The Oracle is played, well over the top, by Peppermint, an actor who honed their skill’s on Ru Paul’s Drag Race.
|Bonnie Mulligan rips it up as Pamela
It is pure old style hokum rendered new by the talented cast, including a chorus of sexual mischievous dancers and actors. Spencer Liff provides quite a modern twist for the choreography. Arcadia is rendering in cartoon glory by Julian Crouch’s scenic design and Kevin Adams’ lighting. Tom Kitt has rearraigned some of the Go-go’s tunes and kept others which sound as fresh as you remember. This mélange of ingredients has been masterfully directed by Michael Mayer, making the show glide along quickly.
Had I not seen the audience, I would wonder who this show appeals to. I know that fans from the 1980’s would embrace the music, and LGBT fans would embrace the heart of this show (and the dynamic turn of Peppermint). But everyone in the theatre loved this show and had a great time, from the young girls and out of towners who weren’t sure what to expect to the locals who might be a bit apprehensive of another jukebox show. Head Over Hells delighted us all.
Head Over Heels | Book:Adapted by James Magruder Original Book: Jeff Whitty | Director: Michael Mayer | Cast: Andrew Durand, Taylor Iman Jones, Jeremy Kushnier, Bonnie Milligan, Peppermint, Tom Alan Robbins, Alexandra Socha, Rachel York