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Head Over Heels Struggles to Find the Beat

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The Broward Center’s latest production, Head Over Heels, boasts a talented cast in a lackluster production.

June 10th, 2022

Just in time for pride month, Broward Center and Slow Burn Theatre Co. have brought a nonbinary Oracle of Delphi, a transgender love interest, and a lesbian romance to center stage with its production of Head Over Heels, a campy homage to the beloved female rock band, The Go-Go’s, running from June 10th-26th.

Theatergoers are sure to be thrilled when the curtain rises to the notes of the familiar 70s classic, “We Got the Beat.” Still, after coming off the high of the fan-favorite opening number, the show struggles to find its footing for the rest of its over two-hour runtime.

The story, adapted from Sir Philipe Sidney’s Renaissance poem “The Arcadia,” follows a kingdom in danger of losing its mysterious “beat” — a flimsy plot device that is never really explained beyond a way to shoehorn the opening song into the context of the story — and must go on a journey to keep it.

The production mainly suffers from its commitment to its genre. A collective sigh rolls over the audience after the first few lines of dialogue when they realize the whole show will be in Shakespearean English, which makes an already convoluted plot even harder to follow. It also hinders the actors, forcing them to talk unnaturally slowly and forfeit believability, or speak their lines normally and sacrifice clarity.

The actors shine individually but simply don’t have the chemistry required for a show so reliant on romance. Nate Promkul, as Musidorus, a peasant shepherd who cross-dresses as an Amazon warrior to get close to “plain” princess Philoclea, is a particular highlight. His boyish, lovesick charm brings a sense of self-awareness to an overwhelmingly wacky cast. His breaks of the fourth wall remind the audience that yeah, it’s supposed to be weird, and he’s along for the ride with all of us.

The show also owes a lot of credit to its ensemble, which breathes the Go-Go spirit into the numbers through elaborate, creative choreography that mixes classic Broadway with 70s pop. The production shines its brightest when it leans into the extravagance of it all and doesn’t take itself too seriously — because believe me, none of us are.

Ultimately, this story lives and dies in its appreciation and attention given to queer characters and romances. While it’s a delight that the show gives two girls kissing under the spotlight the same importance as the accompanying heterosexual romance, the queer storylines almost felt superficial — with a whole 2 minutes of dialogue used to explain to the king of Arcadia how they/them pronouns work — and the queerness of the characters often acted as the punchline.

However, the cast and production team have a clear appreciation for not only The Go-Go’s music but also the significance of having multiple queer leads in a Broadway musical. The passion for the art and for the music is clear in the performances, despite the natural shortcomings of the nature of the musical.

The comedy, when not aimed at a queer character’s expense, can be surprisingly clever. Ranging from absurdist to slapstick to dry irony, the jokes in Head Over Heels are hit or miss, but when they hit, they hit.

While the show is not for everyone, die-hard Go-Go fans are sure to get a kick out of hearing familiar favorites. Greek mythology enthusiasts will enjoy the clever references and historical setting and avid theatergoers will appreciate the kind of passion and intimacy that can only be achieved in community theater.

Overall, I’m not head over heels for it.

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