East Carolina University School of Theatre and Dance will present its last musical of the semester, “Head Over Heels,” which is set to premiere at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 in McGinnis Theatre.
The show is based on Sir Phillip Sydney’s “The Arcadia” and is set to music by 2021 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Go-Go’s. Additional showings are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 and 19, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 20 and at 2 p.m. on Nov. 21.
Director of “Head Over Heels” and assistant professor of directing and acting Bryan Conger said the show is a romantic comedy first, but also offers elements that promote community and inclusivity.
“It’s about a community finding what makes it a community and how that community comes together,” Conger said. “The play is a real celebration of inclusivity and of queerness. It’s one of the first Broadway musicals to feature a written non-binary character in a principle role. Even though it is set in or based on Elizabethan times, it is very much contemporary in its relationship and how we view gender.”
While spectators and stage crew are still expected to wear face masks, those onstage will appear without for the first time this year. This offers the audience a chance to see a show like they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, Conger said. He said he anticipates that “Head Over Heels” audience members will appreciate seeing a return to normalcy with a maskless on-stage cast.
“This will be an opportunity for an audience to see theatre how they were used to seeing it before we were doing things on zoom,” Conger said. “Before we all had to wear masks and weren’t allowed to have any sort of physical contact with each other. I hope that will bring an audience joy as well, seeing that happen again.”
While the show will feature music from the 80’s, Conger said fans can expect not to see 80’s hair. He said costumes will feature 80’s patterns and fabrics with contemporary modern suggestions.
One thing Conger said he has enjoyed throughout the process of putting the show together is working with the cast and crew.
“This company of actors has been a real delight and pleasure to have in the room and to work with and to create this piece and everyone has had a real passion and a real love for it,” Conger said. “That has made creating it that much more exciting, even when the work is difficult and long, it has been extremely fun and rewarding for everyone in the room including myself.”
Sharing that same sentiment and playing the character Musidorus is Keagan Kermode who said he had a great experience working on the show with the cast and crew.
Kermode said one of his favorite parts about the role is the naive and innocent nature of the character and how these characteristics are what bring out his role’s comedic value.
“It's been a long time since I've played a light comedic role, so I'm appreciating that aspect of the role a lot,” Kermode said. “My favorite part of the show currently is the comedy. It's been a long time since I've been able to be funny on stage.”
Having not worked on a musical since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kermode said the experience that came along with “Head Over Heels” has been impactful thus far.
While some may have waited since the pandemic’s began to be able to laugh at an in-person performance, Kermode said he has anticipated hearing those laughs in-person on the stage.
“Especially coming out of a year and a half of COVID(-19) and virtual performances, it's such a breath of fresh air to hear laughter,” Kermode said.
Playing the part of Gynecia, the queen of Arcadia, is Tenayjah Hawkins who said she is excited about the journey her character takes while navigating motherhood and her title as queen.
With the show’s debut approaching, Hawkins said she has one musical number on her mind that she’s particularly excited to perform.
“I would definitely say the number ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’ is my favorite part of the show right now, but you'll have to come and see why,” Hawkins said.
Admittedly, Hawkins said she didn’t know just how familiar she would be with the show’s music until they began, but did recognize quite a few of the songs.
Hawkins said putting the show together was an enjoyable experience, but added that there was some emotion that came with this one. She said she has only good things to say about her time working on “Head Over Heels” and looks forward to the return of a live audience in McGinnis Theatre.
“It has been extremely fun, refreshing, and honestly emotional,” Hawkins said. “‘Head Over Heels’ will be our first live performance maskless since the pandemic started and we have worked extremely hard to get to this point. It has been a pleasure to work on this piece with my hardworking and talented peers.”