Pasadena Playhouse is back in business and they are quite literally throwing a party to celebrate by way of a raucous romp of a Go-Go’s musical, Head Over Heels. The entire space has been completely re-imagined as a New York underground dance club replete with scaffolding, disco balls, dance platforms, and glitter, baby, lots of glitter. One is immediately discombobulated upon entering what used to be theater seats to what is now a neon lit hallway, through layers of gold mylar streamers and out onto a dance floor. Some of the seating is on the actual Playhouse stage, with more seats up in the balcony and the remaining audience standing/dancing on the dance floor itself amidst the action with a live band.
Then come the actors, who enter and exit on the scaffolding, running across the balcony and performing soliloquies from platforms in and among the audience. It is clear from minute one, you have just joined a rave of a party with drag queen Alaska 5000 presiding over it all. She plays Queen Gynecia and we’re in the land of Arcadia, based on the story by Sir Philip Sidney, ruled by her husband King Basilius. They have two daughters, the beautiful Pamela and the plain Philoclea. The King visits an oracle and is told the bleak news that his daughters will be stolen, his wife will betray him and his throne will be usurped. When a handsome shepherd boy falls in love with Philoclea but disguises himself as an Amazonian warrior princess, both the king and the queen find themselves oddly attracted to “her” and mistaken identities and wild confusion ensue. Meanwhile Pamela finds herself falling in love and a gorgeous “player” guides us through it all.
Audiences will remember George Salazar as Seymour in the Playhouse’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors”. Salazar is so captivating, you just want more of him whenever he is on stage and he has the audience rooting for his shepherd boy from the get go. His rendition of “Mad About You” breaks your heart and the reprise as a duet is chill inducing. As soon as Alaska 5000 sashays up the stairs center dance floor, the party has begun. She is in full command as the haughty drama Queen and slays with every deadpan aside to the audience and click of her sky high heels. Lea DeLaria chews scenery and scats(!) as the misogynistic, cigar smoking King (from Queens?). Tiffany Mann as the self absorbed Pamela powerfully belts out “Beautiful” in a ponytail spinning show stopper. Shanice Williams is terrific as the “plainer” but sweeter love interest of the shepherd boy, Philoclea, and has lovely chemistry with Salazar. Their love story is the heart of the show and it’s easy to root for these two.
Emily Skeggs is earnest as the handmaiden Mopsa while Freddie lends their sensual voice to the mysterious Oracle. And blessing us all with his gorgeous dancing is Yurel Echezarreta as The Player.
It’s an evening of pure joy and pop-rock fantasy with The Go-Go’s music pulsating through this zany and heartfelt adventure. So if “Vacation” is all you ever wanted right now, then head on over to the Playhouse where “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and not to worry, “Our Lips Are Sealed”!
Head Over Heels kicks off the Playhouse’s 2021-2022 season now through December 12. Tickets start at $30 and are available at pasadenaplayhouse.org, by phone at 626-356-7529, and at the Box Office at 39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.