Heaven is a place on Earth in Kokandy Productions' 'Head Over Heels'
Updated: Dec 27, 2019
The chatter of an eager crowd for the sold out Head Over Heels on Saturday night, July 6th, at Theater Wit was palpable. Kokandy Productions presented the Midwest premiere of this funny, romantic show full of introspection and energy just six months after concluding its Broadway run (the awesome part of Chicago theater!) Co-directed by Elizabeth Swanson and Derek Van Barham, this show takes the traditional royal family, boy-meets-girl drama and turns it on its head. Songs from the all-female, 1980s rock band, The Go-Go’s, pulsate throughout the show from the amazing orchestra led by Kyra Leigh.
The set, designed by Christopher Rhoton, is lined with flowers and twinkly lights, the programs fashioned as old-school newspapers with the smiling faces of our lovely cast and crew, and Panic at the Disco!’s “Girls/Girls/Boys”, Lizzo, Janelle Monáe and Beyoncé blast over the speakers (hats off to Michael J. Patrick). It’s a loud, proud homage to the LGBTQIA community; those that live in the gender binary, outside of it and all the allies here to have a good time. The stage has been set and we are ready to do three things: sing, laugh and pour our hearts out.
The opening song kicks off to the thumping beats of “We Got the Beat,” The Beat being a proper noun in the fictional land of Arcadia. “The Beat” is something the kingdom must protect, and because of some archaic binary rules, a stubborn king, and a prophecy, Arcadia is in danger of losing it. It’s up to the young, open citizens to save The Beat and themselves. The energy, brightness and stunning choreography of Breon Arzell matched with harmonies of the cast cannot be beat. You can’t help but bounce in your seat to the raw energy and wholesomeness of this ensemble.
The diverse cast in vibrant costumes by Uriel Gomez consists of Frankie Leo Bennett as the stubbornly hilarious King Basilius, Liz Norton as the effervescent Queen Gynecia, and their daughters, Bridget Adams-King as the vain but endlessly amusing Pamela and Caitlyn Cerza as the sweet, young Philoclea. Pamela and Philoclea’s respective love interests include Deanlís Resto as the delightful Mopsa and Jeremiah Alsop as the heart of the show, Musidorus.
Through lines like “All these men are not a gift,” and “I am not vain, I am objective,” oldest daughter Pamela goes through her journey of sexuality and self-discovery with her handmaiden, Mopsa. The earth-shattering, beautiful vocals of youngest daughter, Philoclea, on songs like “Good Girl” bring so much depth to the show. The gravitas for her love of shepherd, Musidorus, is felt. Musidorus disguises himself as a female Amazonian warrior once King Basilius rejects his proposal to Philoclea on her behalf. The disguise gives him the opportunity to befriend his beloved, sneak under the King’s radar, and discover a thing or two about his own gender. The gender-bending and queerness of Pamela and Philoclea’s love interests bring honesty and warmth to an overall impressive cast.
However, no one is more ethereal and scene-stealing than the non-binary Pythio, played by Parker Guidry, who kills it in breathtaking outfits, stunning vocals and choreography to boot as the all-knowing prophet. They task the king with saving Arcadia from its archaic, binary rules and opening up a new form of government. Pythio brings a newfound sense of freedom and just a touch of chaos to the rigidity of the old Arcadia. Pythio’s arc is completed in a way that works best for them and the new Arcadia.
“Heaven is A Place On Earth” is a standout number as the cast dances in the crowd and brings the energy toward its final minutes. The connection between the sisters, their lovers and family is strong. As stated in the show, their journey is a circle; you end up where you began and we end up at a lovely place. “I am no more and I am everything,” this heartbreakingly gorgeous line from Musidorus rings true. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night.
Charlene Haparimwi is the Public Relations Coordinator for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. She graduated from DePaul University in June 2018 with degrees in Public Relations and Advertising, Journalism and Women’s and Gender Studies. She performed in The Vagina Monologues at DePaul for three years and credits her high school theater experience for her everlasting passion for the art.