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‘This play is full of firsts’: behind the groundbreaking Go-Go’s musical

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The jukebox musical explores the music of the all-female 80 s pop-rock band the Go-Gos and peculiarity the first transgender lead-in in a major Broadway show

Jukebox musicals tend to go one of two ways. Either they tell the basic narration of the stars they’re meant to honour( like Jersey Boys and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, or Summer and Donna Summer ). Or they develop some tale out of whole cloth( a la Mamma Mia! and Abba, or We Will Rock You and Queen ).

As loony as the latter can get, the premise of a new Broadway musical, based on the DayGlo carols of the Go-Go’s, smacks a gobsmacking new high. It transposes the band’s 1980 s power-pop benchmarks to the world of 1580, acquiring the storyline from an impenetrable Tudor-era poem, while aping the archway rhythmic patterns of iambic pentameter.

” It’s not an obvious acquaintance ,” said here play’s chairman, Michael Mayer.” It’s something more imaginative. We’re trying to break brand-new sand here .”

In fact, they’re doing so on various levels. Though the performance, entitled after the Go-Go’s effervescent top 20 punch Head Over Heels, strikes a routinely giddy tone, beneath the lather it tackles a meaty range of issues, many of them concerning gender. In the manner of the Shakespearean plays it references, it peculiarity lots of cross-dressing, as well as misguided identities which, here, are used to screw with any binary notions of virility. A vital persona, the Oracle of Delphi, is played by Peppermint, the first transgender maiden to originate an important role in a Broadway musical. Her persona chooses to be referred to as “they”, inspiring a ballad that’s probably the first in a commercial-grade musical to employment that pronoun be submitted to private individuals. More whimsically, this has to be the first musical to peculiarity a line like” thou better workest”, an imagined 16 th-century twist on RuPaul’s far-famed catch-phrase” you better design “.

” This play is fraught with firsts ,” said Mayer.

Head Over Heels attacks more than simply gender criteria. It challenges classism, monarchism, sexism, elitism, superficiality, manlines and more. “It’s got all the isms,” Peppermint said.” But for every issue it takes on, there are 10 or 20 titters .”

Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s said it was important to the band that the play’s ambiance remain daylight.” Our music has always delivered parties joy ,” she said.” The musical needed to do the same .”

It also needed to avoid telling the band’s own narration.” We weren’t at all interested in that approach ,” Wiedlin said.” That would be fraught with pitfalls and insecurities and possible suffering feelings. Too, it’s really hard to tell a 40 -year story of five working different parties and get it right .”

Jeff Whitty, builder of the inventive punched play Avenue Q, had the task of creating a book, and a focus, for the demonstrate. Taking the greatest possible leap, he chose to base his narrative on the 16 th-century lyrical handiwork The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia written by Sir Philip Sidney.” I pondered,’ What if I make a great work of art , not only a jukebox musical ?'” Whitty said.” The Go-Go’s will be elevated in the process and beings will be able to listen to them with a brand-new ear .”

Originally, his form didn’t help iambic pentameter, but he discovered that hiring the poem obliged his interminable write” shorter, cleaner and clearer”, he said.

The band enthusiastically approved Whitty’s eccentric dialogue and that form had its premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare festival in 2015. But between that time and the show’s pre-Broadway try-out in San Francisco in April, a significant polemic arise. The production brought in a new head, Michael Mayer, who had earlier steered the slam Broadway rock musicals Spring Awakening, American Idiot, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. And he wanted to make substantial changes. In the process, Whitty felt he was ” being asked to do something impossible”- to make” Humpty Dumpty back all going together”, he said.” I couldn’t oversee the devastation of all that had worked so well .”

Consequently, Whitty decided to resign, and though he retains credit for the original volume, it was adapted, and significantly reformed, by James Magruder. Mayer and Wiedlin each praised Whitty’s knacks, but the originator of the book remains profoundly disappointed by the reworking. He said he reviewed and considered the Broadway version ” shallower” and its language false to the tenets of iambic pentameter.

Peppermint Peppermint and the ensemble of Head Over Heels. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Broadway version also changes the role of some key personas from Whitty’s script. But it reputation its willingness to apply lesbian reputations at its centre.” I’m so tired of seeing exactly gay humankinds on the Broadway stage over the years ,” Whitty said.” I pondered:’ Hold us a musical comedy’s firstly leading dykes .'”

Both versions of the play-act celebrate women around sizing.” It’s an opportunity to see big beautiful girls out there who aren’t a joke ,” Mayer said.” In our narrative, she’s the paradigm of allure .”

Wiedlin elicits a clear connection between the play’s gender politics and the Go-Go’s own history.” Our whole lives, we’ve been connected with the LGBTQ communities ,” she said.” And they’ve always been very supportive of the band .”

The group even sounded as” drag sovereigns” in their 1984 video for Turn To You.” We looked like young Beatle boys ,” she said.

Peppermint has her own connection to the band. In 2012, she sang backup for Belinda Carlisle at a show in New England.” I was a makeshift drag Go-Go ,” she said.

While Peppermint has appeared in movies, TV( including RuPaul’s Drag Race) and in her own music videos, her Broadway debut signifies something special.” It means that maybe the doors are eventually opening at the least wide enough for someone of my sizing to get through ,” she said, with a chuckle.” There was surely a day when I auditioned for assignments when I was encouraged to hide some of the signifiers that I was trans. The very things that give me flair as a performer were ogled down upon. Even now, trans women of colour haven’t had their lives celebrated in the way that, I imagine, is happening in this project .”

Along with disclosing fresh questions for Broadway, the romp hands an airing to some lesser known Go-Go’s songs, amid the stumbles.” The best thing for me ,” Wiedlin said,” is that some of these sungs most people have never heard of”- like Here You Are, from the 2001 book God Bless the Go-Go’s, or Good Girl, which was liberated on a compilation book in 1994.

The end of the substantiate features a” large-hearted uncover” that dovetails with the Go-Go’s role as the first female banding who play all their own devices and write all their own songs to tally a No 1 book.” We want to help with any opportunity to have female musicians onstage ,” Wiedlin said.

Together, she feels, the contents the prove sends are well suited the times.” All the paces we’ve made towards equality have been slipping away lately ,” she said.” Now, now more than ever, we need to give people hope and prosperity- at least for a couple of hours .”

Head Over Heels opens on Broadway on 26 July

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