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The Curran Stages an Elizabethan Rom-Com Set to the Music of the Go-Go’s

We doth got the beat.


Two couples in the ancient Greek city of Arcadia make a pact to protect their secret love affairs. They speak in iambic pentameter and move across the stage in Elizabethan garb. Suddenly, splashy guitars and synthesized keyboards kick in, and the entire company emerges to belt out the classic 1981 Go-Go’s earworm “Our Lips Are Sealed.” What in the name of Belinda Carlisle is happening here?

The answer, says director Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening), is Head Over Heels, a “Shakespearean rom-com with an ’80s soundtrack dealing with really contemporary themes” and featuring the bubblegum pop of the Go-Go’s. Opening this month at the Curran theater, the giddy highbrow-lowbrow mash-up is the latest jukebox musical bound for Broadway, albeit the only one adapted from an English 16th-century work (The Arcadia, by Sir Philip Sidney). The show takes on weighty modern-day issues of gender and sexuality, even climate change—but with, like, humor. “I don’t want it to sound like it’s going to be a heavy evening,” Mayer says.

Jane Wiedlin, the original guitarist for the Go-Go’s, who now lives in Oakland, says the first concept for the show was a Go-Go’s musical biography, before it morphed into its current form. “We were actually relieved it isn’t about us,” she says. Anyway, the blending of 16th-century source material and the hits she cowrote in the ’80s somehow works.

Taking popular music out of its original context has become something of a calling card for Mayer. His Green Day–scored American Idiot, which premiered at Berkeley Rep, was a similar exercise in layering pop recordings with new meaning. “When you take songs that only exist in music videos or on records, and then put them in a dramatic theatrical context, a new narrative emerges,” he says. “And that’s super fun.” Apr. 10–May 6

Originally published in the April issue of
San Francisco 

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