‘Head Over Heels’ will help audiences find their beat | Eastern North Carolina Now | A mash-up of ’80s pop-punk and Elizabethan style comes together in “Head Over Heels,” a musical opening Wednesday at East Carolina University.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Crystal Baity.

    A mash-up of '80s pop-punk and Elizabethan style comes together in "Head Over Heels," a musical opening Wednesday at East Carolina University.

    "Head Over Heels" is a romantic comedy set to the music of the all-woman band the Go-Go's in a 16th century locale. The modern musical fairy tale follows the escapades of a royal family who set out to save their beat - a la "We Got the Beat" - and kingdom from extinction. It's based on "The Arcadia" by Sir Philip Sidney and the original book by Jeff Whitty, adapted by playwright James Magruder.

    The production is the first for the School of Theatre and Dance in more than a year in which the actors on stage will not wear face coverings, allowing the audience to better see facial expressions, said director Bryan Conger.

    All safety protocols will be followed, and face coverings are required for patrons and cast and crew off stage, he said.

    "Head Over Heels" is the first to feature a nonbinary character, bringing a modern sensibility to the stage around current conversations about gender identity, Conger said. One couple is princesses who fall in love.

    Sixteen students fill the cast, and eight faculty members have joined in design, set-building and costumes - but the entire department supports the production, Conger said.

    Set in the Elizabethan period, the play is written in blank verse, giving actors a poetic way of speaking that is juxtaposed with the most identifiable songs from the Go-Go's. "We were challenged to marry that language with the music and songs and tell the story," Conger said. "But it's been an exciting and fun challenge."

    ECU senior Keagan Kermode of Roswell, New Mexico, portrays Musidorus. "I have loved working on this character so much," he said. "The character is written with a lot of naivety and unbridled passion, and it has been fun to explore those traits after such a long time not working."

    Kermode, a theatre arts major with concentrations in musical theatre and professional acting, hasn't worked on a musical in more than a year because of the pandemic. "Working on this show has been a great opportunity to reflect and be thankful for the things that are important to me, and I hope the audience takes that opportunity as well," Kermode said, adding that working in person with other actors, crew and the creative team has been a relieving experience.

    With a return to live performances, Conger said he hopes audiences find joy in "Head Over Heels."

    "It's a celebration of what it means to have a community that's diverse and inclusive," Conger said. "I hope it's a joyful evening to help them (the audience) find their beat again and warm their hearts."

    Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in McGinnis Auditorium. Tickets are $18 for the public, $15 for faculty and staff and $10 for students/youth. Face coverings are required. Viewer discretion is advised because of sexual content.
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