Blank verse. Iambic pentameter. An Elizabethan poem set to the music of the Go-Go’s.
That’s how Haddonfield Memorial High School senior Katie Walsh, who plays Philoclea, described the high-school’s spring musical, “Head Over Heels.” If you like the Go-Go’s, Elizabethan farce, love and intergenerational stories with a focus on modern issues, you’re in luck; The musical features all of the above.
“You can kind of think about the whole Shakespeare era of comedies, forceful moments with mistaken identity, things that the audience knows that other people in the play don’t know,” said musical dIrector Matt DiDonato.
“It’s also a comedy, so throughout the play, we see various love stories.”
Though the show is based on “The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia,” written in the late 16th century by Philip Sydney, it is also contemporary, having first been produced in 2015. The dialogue is written in old English and verse, similar to Shakespeare, but it is also a jukebox musical like “Mamma Mia” that builds a story on existing Go-Go’s music. It is a change compared with traditional Golden Age musicals the theater department has done in the past.
The story focuses on a royal family in ancient Greece on a quest to prevent a prophecy about its kingdom “losing the Beat,” which DiDonato explained is equivalent to the kingdom’s life force in the play, and is based on the Go-Go’s’ hit song, “We Got the Beat.” The characters each go on journeys of self-discovery and acceptance.
“To me, the number-one theme is that it’s our job to learn about ourselves and it’s our job to do the hard work of figuring out what our own journey is,” DiDonato explained. “For some of the characters, that means learning a little bit about who they are as people, and that’s where it comes in that there’s an LGBTQ relationship in the show.”
“This is a show about love, familial love, romantic love between straight and non-hetero couples,” said stage manager Char Viola.
The show also features a nonbinary character, Pythio the Oracle, who is described as having a big personality.
“It’s a really big thing to have that representation,” said sophomore Mo Nobel, who plays Pythio. “I was amazed by that and I was overjoyed by seeing that, and I knew I wanted to audition and get this role because it meant so much to me.
“ … When I got the role,” Nobel recalled, “I was just overjoyed, because this is definitely probably one of my dream roles that I’m getting to play. Just an amazing character and an amazing script. It’s so funny and exciting and it’s just overall an amazing show.”
“I really hope that people, when they come see the show, they leave with an open mindedness,” Viola noted. “(I hope it) opens up the minds of everyone to say, ‘Hey, love is love,’ and that’s what it all comes down to.”
Show dates are March 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m., and March 12 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for students and seniors. They can be purchased soon at hmhsdrama.com.