New Pasadena Playhouse Production ‘Head Over Heels’ Immerses Audience in 360° Experience

Show celebrates being back on stage with live audiences in a big way
By EDDIE RIVERA
Published on Oct 23, 2021

Showgoers attending the Pasadena Playhouse’s newest production, Head Over Heels, featuring the music of The Go-Gos’, will find a whole new theatre waiting for them.

“We figured after 20 months apart, we needed to celebrate being back on stage in a big way,” the Playhouse said on social media, and they weren’t overselling.

Seats on the main floor have been removed as has much of the stage, creating an interactive dance floor on which the production is mounted. Audience members can actually stand among the performers on the floor or watch the whole shebang from one of two seating galleries.

While Head Over Heels was originally produced for a traditional proscenium stage on Broadway in 2018, the Playhouse’s 90-minute, intermission-free production puts the audience right in the middle of the live performance.

With the actors performing all over the converted theater, every seat, or spot on the dance floor, will have a unique vantage point.

The plot of the Broadway version of the show is loosely based on the 16th Century tale, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, which was written by Sir Philip Sidney.

In the original tale, the kingdom of Arcadia is peaceful and prosperous, and its people’s lives are ruled by a mysterious “Beat.” King Basilius and Queen Gynecia have two daughters. The younger, Philoclea, is in love with her childhood friend Musidorus, a shepherd who is not considered an appropriate match.

The older daughter Pamela, is, of course, the most beautiful female in Arcadia, but according to her, she is jealous of her sister Philoclea, since her sister does not have to deal with men coming to the door at all hours.

Many of the cast members also feel as though the medieval tale is still the story of their own personal search for love and self-discovery.

“This is a non-binary character,” says Freddie, who plays “The Oracle.”

“I am a non-binary person, but more than that, the character acts in a way that is like a queer elder. The character is constantly clearing the space, and providing a window into what the future holds, he said. “I think about my life when I was a kid, and how there might be younger people in the audience who might see this, and it’s an opportunity for people to see gender expansiveness, and various non-binary people.”

Freddie, who goes by only one name, continued, “I would say that the lesson is that no matter who you are, beyond just your gender, you are beautiful, you are deserving of celebration, and we should be embracing all, and embracing the future.”

Freddie joins cast members Alaska 5000 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Lea DeLaria of Orange is the New Black, Yurel Echezarreta from Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story, Tiffany Mann from Be More Chill, George Salazar of Little Shop of Horrors, Emily Skeggs from Fun Home, and Shanice Williams , who played “Dorothy” in NBC’s The Wiz Live!

The production is being directed, choreographed, and conceived by Jenny Koons and Sam Pinkleton with music direction by Kris Kukul, scenic design by David Meyer; costume design by Hahnji Jang; lighting design by Stacey Derosier; sound design by Danny Erdberg and Ursula Kwong Brown; casting by Ryan Tymensky of The Telsey Office, and stage management by Sara Sahin.

Patrons will be required to be fully vaccinated and wear masks when entering the theater.

Performances of Head Over Heels are scheduled from November 9 through December 12. More information is available at pasadenaplayhouse.org. 39 South El Molino Ave, Pasadena, CA . 626-356-7529.

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