Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

Head Over Heels
New Line Theatre

Review by Richard T. Green

Grace Langford (center) and Cast
Photo by Jill Ritter Lindbergh
Exactly two years ago, when COVID-19 was about to cast the live theater world into a kind of suspended animation, New Line Theatre put on a dazzling regional premier of the Go-Go's inspired stage musical Head Over Heels (based loosely on the verse romance "The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia" by Sir Philip Sidney; adapted by James Magruder, with musical arrangements for the stage by Tom Kitt). It's back at the Marcelle Theatre, and though it's still dazzling, there are a few losses to note, probably due to actor availability and budgeting. But it's still a thrill to watch and to get caught up in the swirl of it.

Head Over Heels' vocal and dance magic remains in excellent working order, under the direction of New Line's Artistic Director Scott Miller. His 2020 co-director, Mike Dowdy-Windsor, is not credited in this staging, though it is generally faithful in evoking Mr. Dowdy-Windsor's buoyant personality through mostly the same cast and tone. On opening night the show seemed a bit draggy after intermission, though that my have just been me (it grew quite warm in the theater, as sometimes happens, and I'd just had a family tragedy earlier in the week, which thankfully almost never happens). But by the curtain call, the show was once again zooming along, full of dazzling solos and happy, exciting dance.

In song and dance the performers exude a well-deserved confidence, as if they were still basking in the afterglow of their 2020 production. Look on nearly any face under the stage lights and you'll see a performer who's caught the world by the tail. Clayton Humburg seems to have grown in assurance and vocal agility as the heartachy shepherd boy (he's gone blond this time around). And Melissa Felps (his love-interest, the younger princess Philoclea) exhibits startling operatic training in the latter half of the proceedings.

Grace Langford remains an unchallenged powerhouse performer as the first-born princess, Pamela, with boundless reserves of vocal beauty and a wonderful comic flair in her vain autocracy over the ladies of the court. Her maidservant this time is smart, shimmering singer Dawn Schmid, a New Line regular, replacing delightful Jaclyn Amber as Ms. Langford's love interest. Ms. Schmid is equally strong as Ms. Langford in the vocal department, and when the pair lets fly with soprano-ish glee, it's springtime for belters.

The show this time seems a bit aimless after intermission (though admittedly they are all literally wandering in a wilderness in the second half). Then it speeds up to perfection again after a love farce involving the royal parents (the infinitely bittersweet Zachary Allen Farmer and tempestuous Carrie Wenos Priesmeyer). It's a jukebox musical that transcends the category, reshuffling the popular 1980s girl group's songbook into a 16th century smash hit poem, complete with day-glo doublet and hose, and some very up to date gender pronouns.

Colin Dowd does very nicely as the new royal servant Dametas, but he's replacing Aaron Allen, a comic perfectionist. Tiélere Cheatem is excellent once again as the Oracle of Delphi–his sinewy delight in the curtain call puts a joyful cap on the entire cast's efforts. So, overall: less funny, by maybe 10 or 20%; but it seemed to me there are even more dazzling vocals this time around, to embellish the fiendishly fun choreography by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack.

Head Over Heels runs through March 26, 2022, at New Line Theatre, Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive, St. Louis MO. Proof of vaccination and photo ID are required to enter, and masks are required inside at all times, except when actively enjoying a drink from the bar in the lobby. There is a lighted, secure parking lot several blocks east of Powell Symphony Hall. For tickets and information, please visit

Princess Pamela: Grace Langford
Princess Philoclea: Melissa Felps
Musidorus: Clayton Humburg
Mopsa: Dawn Schmid
King Basilius: Zachary Allen Farmer
Queen Gynecia: Carrie Wenos Priesmeyer
Pythio: Tiélere Cheatem
Dametas: Colin Dowd
Arcadians: Kevin Corpuz, Evan Fornachon, Chris Kernan, Chris Moore, Maggie Nold, Michelle Sauer, Alyssa Wolf, Sara Rae Womack

The New Line Band:
Conductor/Keyboard: Alerica Anderson
Lead Guitar: Adam Rugo
Guitar: Jaylen Edwards
Percussion: Clancy Newell
Bass: John Gerdes

Production Staff:
Director: Scott Miller
Music Director: Alerica Anderson
Choreographers: Michelle Sauer, Sara Rae Womack
Stage Manager: Erin Goodenough
Sound Designer: Ryan Day
Scenic Designer: Rob Lippert
Costume Designers: Courtney Gibson, Sarah Porter
Lighting Designer: Kenneth Zinkl
Props Master: Kimi Short
Volunteer Coordinator: Alison Helmer
Graphic Designer: Matt Reedy