SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — When the idea first came up, the Go-Go’s found it so improbable and off-beat that they instantly fell in love with it.
As band member Jane Wiedlin puts it: “Several of us are turning 60 and it’s like, ‘WHAT, we’re still here? And now we’re going to Broadway! Are you kidding me?”READ MORE: Mothers Tearfully Remember Children Slain In Bay Area Homicides
“Head Over Heels,” set to debut this summer on Broadway, is a merry musical mashup of the Go-Go’s 1980s pop tunes with a 16th century romantic comedy — spoken in iambic pentameter with a wide-ranging conversation on gender fluidity.
“That’s what we loved,” the band’s lead guitarist Charlotte Caffey told The Associated Press. “Because it’s outside of the box, it’s unusual. And that’s kind of like our band. We’re kind of weird gals.”
Before heading to New York, “Head Over Heels” is doing a four-week warmup at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre and still undergoing tweaks and tightening ahead of its July 26 opening at the Hudson Theatre on Broadway. Three of the five Go-Go’s walked the red carpet at its West Coast premiere Wednesday night and then cheered from the audience along with the show’s A-list backers, including producers Gwyneth Paltrow and Donovan Leitch.
Lead singer Belinda Carlisle, who is currently living in Bangkok, Thailand, didn’t make the soft opening but reunited with the band in January in New York for their first show in six years to announce the new musical.
“Head Over Heels” weaves the Go-Go’s infectious tunes — “We Got the Beat,” ”Our Lips Are Sealed,” and other hits with deep cuts and Carlisle’s subsequent singles — to tell an updated take on Sir Philip Sidney’s “Arcadia.” It is an Elizabethan tale about a royal family trying to escape an oracle’s prophecy of doom, using Shakespearean conventions and reveals and mistaken identities.
But this is Tudor with a modern twist, jazzed up with the choreography of Emmy-nominated Spencer Liff (“So You Think You Can Dance”), costumes by Tony- and Oscar-nominated Arianne Phillips, who is Madonna’s longtime costume designer, and musical direction by Tom Kitt, a Tony, Emmy and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer.
Standout performances include RuPaul’s Drag Race star Peppermint, who makes a glittery and commanding Oracle of Delphi. The role will be Peppermint’s Broadway debut and make her the first trans actress to create a principal role on Broadway, says director Michael Mayer.
The Tony Award-winning Mayer (“Spring Awakening,” ”Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” and the Green Day musical “American Idiot”) says the show speaks to a cultural moment in a way he hadn’t anticipated when he started working on it three years ago.READ MORE: Oakland Ties 2020 Homicide Total in First 9 Months of 2021
“It’s kind of shocking how urgent it feels,” Mayer said. “Even though it’s incredibly entertaining and funny, the show deals with gender identity and the concept of feminism in the face of centuries of patriarchy and the concept of finding a new way of governing in the face of historic chauvinism.”
Its creators took a few liberties with certain Go-Go’s songs which, he said, the band “completely supported.”
“Mad About You” gets a pronoun tweak in a gender-bending number to become “Mad About Them.”
“Heaven on Earth” is staged as a raucous, entertaining orgy where actors appear backlit in enlarged silhouettes.
Children of the 80s will recognize “Vacation,” staged as a Technicolor nod to the iconic 1982 MTV video of the Go-Go’s waterskiing in tutus and tiaras.
Nostalgia aside, the Go-Go’s musical is a new milestone for a group that made rock ‘n’ roll history, said Martha Quinn, one of MTVs early video jockeys.
“I wish every girl would watch the Go-Go’s,” said Quinn, who got a group hug from the band members when she arrived at Wednesday’s premiere in pink vinyl leggings and a cropped black leather jacket. Wiedlin, in a black leather corset and platform combat boots, told Quinn: “You look so good! Holy crap.”
The Go-Go’s remain the only all-female band that wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to top the Billboard charts.
“These ladies right here are pioneers,” Quinn told the AP. “They are rock and rollers and everyone should really take notice of these girls.”MORE NEWS: Advocates for Immigrant Rights March From Santa Rosa to Healdsburg
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