Elizabethan Melodrama Meets the Go-Go's in 'Head Over Heels'

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Andrew Durand as Musidorus and Alexandra Socha as Philoclea in a Head Over Heels Rehearsal (Joan Marcus)

The Go-Go's, the all-woman new wave band from the 1980s, might not seem a natural fit for a reboot of Arcadia, a play by England’s Philip Sidney written in the late 1600s. Elizabethan music, of course, was more about troubadours playing lutes. But somehow the writers Jeff Whitty (of Avenue Q fame) and James Magruder have built a musical out of Sidney's obscure work, with the addition of songs like "We Got the Beat," "Get Up and Go," "Cool Jerk," "Vacation," and, of course, "Head Over Heels."

Michael Mayer (American Idiot and Spring’s Awakening) is directing, with Spencer Liff of So You Think You Can Dance doing choreography, and the show is getting a tryout at the Curran in San Francisco before heading to Broadway. As my co-host Jamedra Brown-Fleischman informed us on The Do List, Arcadia centers around a king who is told by an oracle (played by Rupaul's Drag Race runner-up Peppermint) that he will lose his daughters, his wife, and his kingdom, setting us up for a comedy of mistaken identity and cross-dressing.

Alexandra Socha as Philoclea, Jeremy Kushner as Basilius, Bonnie Milligan as Pamela and Rachel York as Gynecia in a rehearsal for ‘Head Over Heels‘
Alexandra Socha as Philoclea, Jeremy Kushnier as Basilius, Bonnie Milligan as Pamela and Rachel York as Gynecia in a rehearsal for 'Head Over Heels.' (Joan Marcus)

Jeremy Kushnier plays the king, Basilius. “When I read the script I laughed my head off, out loud," he said in an interview as rehearsals began at the Curran. “I like to think of it as a Shakespearean farce, with a lot of heart at the end. It really is relevant, talking about gender politics and racial politics. We can deal with all of these things in the context of this crazy Shakespearean romp."

Head Over Heels runs at the Curran through May 6. Details here.