Review: “Head Over Heels” is the Queerest Show on Broadway

Christian Lewis
5 min readJul 27, 2018

Down the street, straight white men may have an entire show, but here in Arcadia, it’s no straights allowed.

Imagine it: Sir Philip Sidney’s 16th century tale The Arcadia combined with the rock music of the 80s girl group, The Go-Go’s. Admittedly, it’s not a likely combination, but somehow Jeff Whitty thought of it and gave birth to “Head Over Heels,” which opened at the Hudson Theatre on Thursday. The production, directed by Michael Mayer, may be a period piece but it certainly isn’t stuffy or old fashioned in any way.

Our story concerns the King and Queen of Arcadia (Jeremy Kushnier and Rachel York), and their daughters Pamela (Bonnie Milligan) and Philoclea (Alexandra Socha). Things turn sour quickly as Pamela rejects her rich suitors, Philoclea wants to marry a shepherd (Andrew Durand), and the King is given a prophecy about the fall of kingdom, delivered by the oracle, Pythio (Peppermint, of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 9 fame).

If you seem a bit overwhelmed, that’s natural. To this Renaissance plot add famous rock hits “We Got the Beat,” “Our Lips are Sealed,” and “Heaven is a Place on Earth” (played by Broadway’s first-ever all female band). Then add 16th century costumes, flimsy cardboard sets, modern choreography, and a sexy, queer, scantily-clad ensemble.

But wait, there’s more: Pamela falls in love with her maid, Mopsa (Taylor Iman Jones), the shepherd becomes a drag queen, and the oracle Pythio comes out as non-binary. We are certainly not in 16th century Arcadia anymore, Toto (or should I say, Go-Go?).

To somehow make this all work, the musical embraces it’s own ridiculousness, playing into every campy element possible. Perhaps it’s too campy, but in an age where “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again” is a box office smash, maybe camp is exactly what we all want right now. Maybe in these dark political times, camp is what we need. Who knows, this might me the dawning of a new age of High Camp.

Although the show often references its own preposterousnesss and goes out of its way to be campy, it is hard to look past some of its…

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Christian Lewis

Theater Critic. Vassar College alum, current PhD candidate at the CUNY Graduate Center.