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Arts in the News

Head Over Heels Sets a Classic Story to an 80s Soundtrack

The spring musical, Head Over Heels, reimagines a 16th-century royal love tale—told mostly in iambic pentameter—and features the music of the 1980s rock band The Go-Gos. Its mash-up of music, visuals, and script work, however, to tell a story as old as time.

“It’s a great mix of elements,” said director and Performing Arts Department faculty member Peter Parisi. “It feels like they’re in this Shakespearean world and the characters are in a modified Elizabethan wardrobe, using the music of The Go-Gos, but it makes sense. They’re talking about issues that are both timeless and contemporary.”

The musical adapts the plot of The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia by Philip Sidney, which was written in the late 1500s. It tells the story of the royal family in a kingdom, Arcadia, whose future depends on the family avoiding four predictions by an oracle. Set to some of The Go-Gos’ most recognizable hits as well as their lesser-known songs, the show is magical, dramatic, and fun.

“The theme is love,” Mr. Parisi said. “It’s about loving who you want to love, status, power, responsibility, duty to family, duty to your country, duty to yourself. In the end, the message is that love is love is love is love, and no matter who you are, you deserve love.”

The relatively small cast has allowed performers to form tight bonds across grade levels, said Naomi Yu ’24, who plays Philoclea, one of the princesses in the royal family.

“The whole process has been incredibly satisfying and exciting,” said Naomi. “The language of the musical is more Shakespearean, less modern-day English, so there was at first a little bit of a learning curve—because of that initial hurdle, though, it’s been much more gratifying. Personally, I’ve had so much fun getting into the world of the musical, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds in front of a live audience.”

Blending an old story with modern themes has been exciting, because it includes LGBTQ+ characters and themes that span ages, like gender roles, relationships, and acceptance, “all with the backbone of upbeat rock,” said Naomi.

Head Over Heels is the first rock musical Milton has ever done. There is an ensemble on stage throughout most of the show, which gives lots of students the opportunity to perform and shine. Faculty members Ted Whelan, Alan Rodi, and Scott Caron are working with students on melding rock with musical theater; Shane Fuller designed the set, Evan DelGaudio is handling lighting, and Pam Walker designed the costumes. The choreography, from Kelli Edwards, is “absolutely amazing,” said Mr. Parisi.

Maggie Dudley ’25 is an ensemble cast member, which is exciting in this show because there are lots of opportunities for performers to interact onstage.

“People should plan to see the show because it has a lot of heart,” Maggie said. “The whole cast has put a lot of work into it, and each of the show’s elements are rooted in having fun and telling a story the best way we can. I think the audience will find both relatabillity and joy in our performance.”

Head Over Heels opens Thursday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. at King Theatre in the Kellner Performing Arts Center. It will run Friday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 20 at 7 p.m. Tickets are free; register for them online.

Spring 1212 Play, Things You Can Do, Opened Thursday

The spring’s 1212 play, Things You Can Do by playwright Kristen Palmer, opened last Thursday in the Studio Theater at the Kellner Performing Arts Center.

Things You Can Do tells the story of an over-achieving graduate student on a visit to her hometown, where her mother and sister are grappling with anxiety and isolation. 

“It’s a play I’ve always loved, and I’m so excited that we’re doing it,” said Performing Arts Department faculty member Eleza Kort, who is directing. “It explores the question of what we can do—on a broad level, while facing global problems like climate change, and on a personal level to help the people in our lives.”

The cast and crew includes Ella Goldberg ’24, Zain “Z” Sheikh ’24, Keira Zhuo ’24, Soraya Darvish ’24, Ly Tanzi ’26, and Abigail Song ’24. 1212 Plays are typically pared-down, intimate productions with small casts and crews, named for the room in Warren Hall where they originated. 

The students had an opportunity to meet with Palmer and rehearse some scenes for her feedback. Palmer was a Melissa Dilworth Gold ’61 Visiting Artist this spring, and she spent time working with performing arts and creative writing classes. The visit was an exciting opportunity for the actors to develop their characters and explore the content more thoroughly. 

“The beauty of a play like this is that each character has a full story,” said Ms. Kort. “The characters feel very real and current.”

Music teacher Alan Rodi has composed an original soundscape for the production, and performing arts teacher Evan DelGaudio designed the lighting. 

Holidays Mean Music

Join Milton Academy—either in-person or virtually via a live stream—to experience the Jean McCawley Orchestra and Chorus Winter Concert. This annual event is a celebration of music by the students of Milton Academy’s vocal and orchestral program. The concert features seasonal tunes to celebrate the holidays, alongside repertoire ranging from Baroque to Contemporary, and classical traditions representing a diverse range of cultures and geography.

This free event begins at 7:30 p.m. this Friday, December 9, in the Kellner Performing Arts Center. Click here to register for in-person attendance. For families who can not travel to campus or prefer a virtual attendance, Milton will host a livestream of the event via Zoom. Join the live stream here.

Milton’s musicians practicing for the concert.

Milton Academy’s Performing Arts Department Presents Lobby Hero

This fall’s 1212 play is Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero, a dialogue-rich play set entirely in the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building. Directed by Performing Arts Department faculty member Darlene Anastas, the show features four main characters whose lives intertwine during the investigation of a crime.

“Lonergan is a Tony-award winning playwright who is known for his dialogue and how he integrates ideas and action into his dialogue,” Anastas said. “It’s a very naturally flowing play. It’s fitting to set it in the lobby of a residential building in Manhattan, where people from all walks of life are passing by. It deals with interpersonal interactions, some social issues with policing, and the personal issues of the ‘lobby hero’ whose life is on display for the whole show.”

It is the first 1212 play for Anastas, who has taught at Milton since 1981—she has always worked on the larger, main-stage productions. “It was exciting to me to work in depth with just a few students and to explore the issues the play has, which are very relevant today.”

To capture the feeling of New York City at night, Anastas added music from a student who will play a street saxophonist; since the show is set entirely in the lobby, the set is somewhat minimal. Although the play doesn’t run until after Thanksgiving, students were already planning to work without their scripts in mid-October.

“So much of the dialogue is motivated by reactions from other characters, so they have a lot to memorize,” Anastas said.

Lobby Hero is scheduled to run in the Studio Theatre in Kellner Hall on Thursday, December 1 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, December 2 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, December 3 at 7 p.m. Register for tickets online.

King Theatre Gets Wicked Sketchy

On the main stage at King Theatre for the first time, the fan favorite sketch-comedy show Wicked Sketchy will feature funny sketches and musical numbers written and performed by students.

First performed in 2014, Wicked Sketchy began as a 1212 play—a Milton tradition named for the former room in Warren Hall where pared-down, intimate performances were staged—giving students an opportunity to flex their comedy muscles. Last fall, the show moved to an outdoor tent to accommodate audience restrictions during the pandemic; for the first time, the show had a stepped-up production, said director and Performing Arts Department faculty member Peter Parisi.

“We were able to see the impact that lighting and sound design had on the show, and it just raised the stakes,” Parisi said. “It’s certainly evolved.”

This year, the show has about a dozen sketches, including some musical numbers. Students brought their ideas for sketches to the group, and together they fleshed out the ideas. Writing comedy is hard work, particularly for a show with a broad audience of students and adults.

Cast member Maggie Dudley ’25 explained that fine-tuning the sketches involves a lot of balance, but the feeling of getting something to work feels like “striking gold.”

“It is quite hard to find a sweet spot with a sketch where its pacing and structure works, as well as its relatability to the audience and comedic timing, but it really pays off once it’s done correctly,” Dudley said. “My favorite kind of comedy is the kind that bonds people through shared experiences that maybe embarrassed them or made them feel self conscious before. I enjoy using comedy to make people feel less alone in the world by not taking ourselves too seriously.”

“The questions are always: ‘What’s funny about it? And how could it be funnier?’” Parisi said. “We had a lot of ideas. Some of them went through zero iterations and were just ready. Others went through many iterations and will never see the light of day. We’re always working to make them funnier.”

Owen GwinnLandry ’23 remembers seeing Wicked Sketchy when he was in eighth grade and knowing he had to be part of it. Collaborating with the other sketch writers and performers has made him laugh to the point of tears during the process. The supportive atmosphere makes it possible for the wildest ideas to be explored, he said.

“It’s just a fun show that people should see if they want a laugh,” he said. “Plus, all the sketches are written by students, so it’s nice to come and support your peers and see what they’ve cooked up.”

This year’s 12 cast members are planning sketches that poke fun at pandemic hoaxes—during the bubonic plague—explore some Boston-area tropes, parody a game show, and perform a bee-based version of Hamlet. “It’s so silly, but it’s a lot of fun,” Parisi said.

Wicked Sketchy will run for three shows in King Theatre: Thursday, November 3 and Friday, November 4 at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, November 5 at 7 p.m.

Reserve tickets online