Head Over Heels: Love, Music and High-Energy Fun

By Barbara Evangelista, Publisher April 16, 2022

Last night, my sister Kathy and I attended the first performance of Head over Heels by The Umbrella Stage Company in Concord (my thanks to The Umbrella Arts Center for providing press tickets).  When I read the description of the show, "This laugh-out-loud love story is set to the music of the iconic 1980’s all-female rock band The Go-Go’s, including the hit songs, “We Got the Beat,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “Vacation,” Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and “Mad About You.” ", I pictured a frothy 60s-era musical set on the beach -- cue Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.  I must have been channeling the Go-Go's Vacation video.  Head Over Heels is way more than the typical boy-meets-girl romance though.  While full of laughs, dancing and great music, it's also a celebration of love in its many forms and acceptance.

Expecting perhaps a bunch of teenage characters in summer clothes, I was surprised when the show began and all the characters were dressed in medieval clothing and using Shakespearean English.  Not at all what I was expecting!  But the characters -- a royal family that includes King Basilius, Queen Gynecia, princesses Pamela and Philoclea, handmaiden Mopsa, shepherd (and Philoclea's love interest) Musidorus, the oracle Pythio, and a dance ensemble -- were warm and funny and excellent singers.  Over two acts and many well-adapted songs by The Go-Gos, the story unfolds: Philoclea and Musidorus are in love but she can't marry a lowly shepherd, while Pamela must accept a suitor although none of them are appealing to her, even after five years of looking. King Basilius visits the oracle Pythio, who gives him four mysterious prophecies that are too worrisome for him to share with the queen or his family.  Trying to divert his family from the actual prophecies, he says they must go on a journey; all will be revealed and Pamela will find her soul mate.  Along the way, they meet an Amazon warrior (actually Musidorus the shepherd in a wig and female warrior costume), who brings about most of the prophecies. In the end, everyone finds their true love and their true selves.

Known mostly for their pop hits -- Vacation, We Got The Beat, Head Over Heels, Our Lips Are Sealed, Mad About You, Heaven is a Place on Earth -- The Go-Go's also did a number of songs that are darker, a bit sadder, and more soul-searching, such as Beautiful, Automatic Rainy Day, Lust to Love, and Good Girl.  The pop hits are performed with high energy and great choreography but it's the more soulful songs that really stand out. In particular, Beautiful, sung by Bri Ryder, Automatic Rainy Day, sung by Bri Ryder and Lillian Salazar, and especially Good Girl, sung by Temma Beaudreau, were moving and beautifully performed.

John Breen as Musidorus was an absolute comic genius and a joy to watch.  Every scene in which he plays "Cleophila", the Amazon warrior, was priceless.  Kai Clifton as Pythio was sassy and funny, and Bri Ryder as Pamela had great comic timing and a wonderful voice.

Due to a fair amount of sexual reference, I'd recommend the show for age 15 and up.  Quite a bit is amusing innuendo that will go right over the heads of most young teens but some is physical.  The show explores sexual awakening, gender fluidity and LGBTQ themes.

Head over Heels plays at The Umbrella Stage Company from April 16 to May 8 with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM and Sundays at 3 PM (no performance on Sunday April 17).  Tickets are $15 for students and $29-$39 for adults.  The theater, newly built and opened in 2019, is small (344 seats) and comfortable, with a great view from all seats.

The Umbrella Stage Company
40 Stow St
Concord MA 01886


I was provided with free tickets to this performance in order to write this review. No other compensation was received.