You know it’s going to be a good year for theatre when January, usually a bit of a dead month, sees numerous huge shows come to the city: Noughts & Crosses, Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of), and even Mamma Mia! are all returning to Manchester this month. But the show I am most excited about is Head Over Heels, which is having its European premiere at Hope Mill Theatre.
Head Over Heels is a jukebox musical which uses the music of The Go-Go’s, the biggest-selling all-female rock band in history. Their hits include ‘We Got the Beat’, ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’, ‘Vacation’, and, of course, the title song.
There’s also a couple of solo songs by lead singer Belinda Carlisle thrown in for good luck: her debut single, ‘Mad About You’, and her signature song, ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’. Carlisle is actually set to embark on a UK tour next month, where she will be supported by The Christians, with a gig at Manchester Academy on February 17.
The musical’s plot, believe it or not, is adapted from Sir Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke Arcadia (1593), resembling the Old Arcadia more closely than the better-known New Arcadia.
The musical had its world premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival back in 2015, running for five months in their outdoor theatre. The production then had its official pre-Broadway engagement in San Francisco from April to May 2018 before transferring to Broadway in June and officially opening in July, where it stayed until early January 2016.
Drag queen Peppermint (RuPaul’s Drag Race Season Nine runner-up) originated the new role of Pythio in San Francisco and on Broadway. She became the first transgender woman to originate a principal role on Broadway.
Licensing rights for future productions were acquired by Broadway Licensing in 2018, allowing Gartland Productions and Chris Maguire to stage a brand-new production for UK audiences!
The director and choreographer of the new production, Tom Jackson Greaves, said: “Head Over Heels has been on my radar since its inception. Its colour, pride and joy combined with the music of The Go-Go’s is a delicious recipe. There are very few new musicals that excite me as much – from its portrayal of queer experiences to its comment on the patriarchy, with its mounds of silliness – the piece is a breath of fresh air within the art form. It’s a rebellion against the confines of history. It’s a celebration of uniqueness. It’s the perfect antidote (and in some ways challenge) to the world’s darkness in 2022 and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with Manchester.”
Head Over Heels runs at Hope Mill Theatre from January 26 to March 4.