Say what you may regarding the decidedly offbeat “Head Over Heels,” nonetheless it positively isn’t your run-of-the-mill musical revue. Where most “jukebox” reveals that spotlight the very best hits of a particular singer or band typically incorporate their customary songs spherical some sketchy biography of the artists involved — within the occasion that they trouble to include any plot the least bit — this one takes a fairly obscure work of antiquated 16th-century prose (Sir Philip Sidney’s “The Arcadia”) and models it to the “new wave” tunes of the 1980s group the Go-Go’s.
As initially conceived and scripted by the aptly named Jeff Whitty (the mischievous mastermind behind “Avenue Q”), such diametrically opposing forces make for a hit-or-miss combination. In the terrific opening number of ingenious director Freddie Ashley’s Actor’s Express manufacturing, accompanied by a rocking four-piece band (led by music director Alli Lingenfelter on keyboards), “Head Over Heels” begins off with a certifiable bang — introducing its stable of characters in a rollicking rendition of “We Got the Beat.”
But their kingdom of Arcadia is shortly enough threatened with the dearth of its private existential “beat.” The plot thickens throughout the convoluted customized of those interchangeable Shakespearean romantic fantasies about mismatched lovers, mistaken identities, magic spells and the like. There are various 21st-century twists and turns alongside the easiest way, too, beginning with a set of dire prophecies issued by an oracle who now identifies as “non-binary” (Trevor Perry as Pythio).
Those omens principally include King Basilius (Kevin Harry) and Queen Gynecia (Jennifer Alice Acker), whose marriage is failing; their nubile daughters, the self-centered Pamela (Abby Holland) and the sweet-natured Philoclea (Emily Whitley); and the potential love pursuits of the 2 princesses, every gay (Niki Badua as Pamela’s loyal handmaiden, Mopsa) and significantly straight (Danny Crowe as Philoclea’s smitten suitor Musidorus, a lowly shepherd who later masquerades as an Amazon lady warrior named Cleophila).
How correctly do Go-Go’s songs match the story? Sometimes (nonetheless not always), increased than you’d assume. The budding romances between the 2 youthful are taboo for numerous causes — the one a question of sexual orientation, the other a matter of sophistication distinction — which provides a super cue for the 4 of them to hitch in on a joyous rendition of “Our Lips Are Sealed.” In one different, quite a few characters consummate their clandestine affairs as shadow figures behind a white curtain, humorously set to the tune of “Heaven Is a Place on Earth.”
Other highlights: Whitley’s “Here You Are”; Badua’s “Vacation”; Crowe’s “Mad About You”; Harry and Acker’s “This Old Feeling”; Holland’s “Beautiful”; and Ashley’s complete 15-member ensemble delivers a rousing mannequin of the title music. The exceedingly inventive and energetic choreography is by Kari Twyman.
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The current feels overlong, bogging down in patches to dispense with numerous expository filler between songs. While a conventional staging of Sidney’s archaic “Arcadia” would possibly want “strained for lack of a serious message,” to quote the funniest line in “Head Over Heels,” all the contemporized touches enable the musical to sometimes get spherical that particular person drawback — and, aside from, there’s fully no denying that the Go-Go’s soundtrack nonetheless has the beat.
“Head Over Heels”
Through Aug. 25. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays; 2 p.m. Saturdays (Aug. 17 and 24 solely). $20-$50. Actor’s Express (at King Plow Arts Center), 887 W. Marietta St. NW, Atlanta. 404-607-7469. actors-express.com.