Go-Go’s Musical Rocks at Diversionary

Lauren King Thompson and Gerilyn Brault (Photos courtesy of Simpatika.).

Lauren King Thompson and Gerilyn Brault (Photos courtesy of Simpatika.).

Diversionary Theatre’s fantastic interpretation of Head Over Heels is a swan song to Executive Artistic Director, Matt M. Morrow. Since starting his leadership in 2014, he staged many acclaimed productions at the LGBTQIA+ venue. Once the run of the show, he co-directed with soon to be Interim Artistic Director, Stephen Brotebeck, is over, Morrow will be taking over as the Artistic Director of the Center Repertory Company in Walnut Creek.

Morrow made the perfect choice as a goodbye to Diversionary: The Go-Go’s jukebox musical romantic comedy inspired by the pastoral romance, “The Countess of Pembroke Arcadia,” Head Over Heels.

Opening in the kingdom of Arcadia, a royal family is ruled by the headstrong king, Basilius (Scott Ripley). After receiving a foreboding message from a non-binary oracle, Pythio (Faith Carrion), Basilius goes with his viceroy, Dametas (Berto Fernández) to meet the prophesier. Pythio warns Basilius to look for several flags that will cause the decline of Arcadia.

Conceived by Jeff Whitty (the writer of the original book) and adapted by James Magruder, the plot sounds complicated for a humorous jukebox musical. Fortunately, everything flows well with clever blank verse that’s lighthearted, and Whitty balances a lot of different characters.

Instead of focusing on a single individual, the story focuses equally on citizens of Arcadia, including Basilius, his wife, Gynecia (Amanda Naughton) and their daughters, Pamela (Gerilyn Brault) and Philoclea (Adelaida Martinez). Pythio, Dametas, his daughter, Mopsa (Lauren King Thompson) and Musidorous (Joey Kirkpatrick), a shepherd in love with Philoclea, are also integral to the plot.

All of the aforementioned performers excel with their comedy, dancing, and rock singing skills.

The cast brings a lot of emotion to the evening, with a few shedding tears onstage, which enhances moving scenes.

As ensemble members, Sutheshna Mani, Kevin Phan and Alyssa Junious contribute to the fun of big musical numbers, such as “Mad About You,” “Vacation” and “Head Over Heels.”

Backing up the company is an onstage band led by conductor/keyboardist, Patrick Marion. Each bandmember plays the music to hit singles such as “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips are Sealed” in the style of a big concert.

Kevin Phan, Alyssa Junious and Sutheshna Mani.

Kevin Phan, Alyssa Junious and Sutheshna Mani.

Morrow and Brotebeck deserve a lot of credit for letting the players and orchestra be in sync with each other. They stage the adventure with a light touch, and work with set designer, Justin Humphres, costume designer, Elisa Benzoni and prop designer, Alyssa Kane, to create an atmosphere that pays tribute to the 1980’s and the 1500’s.

Some of the funniest moments of the tale come from choreographer, Katie Banville. The raunchy movements in tunes such as “This Old Feeling” and Belinda Carlisle’s, the Go-Go’s lead singer, solo single, “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” are uproariously hysterical.

While the narrative is meant to be a good time at the theatre, there are serious messages about inclusion when it comes to sexuality. Although I don’t want to get too specific in order for the surprises and twists to be preserved, the themes are handled with empathy, which adds to the heart of the piece. Since the storyline embraces the LGBTQIA+ community, it was a smart choice to have the musical run shortly before SD Pride 2023.

Head Over Heels is both a love letter to an influential band, and a hilarious and unexpectedly touching ode to acceptance. A fitting tribute to Morrow’s accomplishments at the University Heights playhouse.

Show times are Thursday at 7:00 pm, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm.

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Diversionary Theatre
4545 Park Boulevard #101 San Diego CA 92116 USA Work Phone: 619.220.0097 Website: Diversionary Theatre website
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Updated 12 months ago. Return to top.


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