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.