Head Over Heels at the Hudson Theatre
by Mo Brady
A show doesn’t have to be deep if it’s fun. Think of The Producers or Something Rotten! Or Head Over Heels, the new Broadway musical that recently opened at the Hudson Theatre. Thriving on its fast pace and high energy, the result is one of the most cohesive, enjoyable musicals brought to Broadway this year.
With the opening strains of “We Got The Beat,” the strong and sexy cast invites the audience to join them in their revelry. Spencer Liff’s choreography combines classical technique, voguing and rhythmics to create a movement language that is both playful and strong. This musical staging is a big part of what keeps the show fun without getting frothy.
Head Over Heels uses its ensemble heavily throughout the show’s proceedings, from crossovers to large production numbers. Throughout each, they bring a consistent energy that comments on the action while still being a part of it. Imagine the knowing guidance the ensemble of Pippin, placed into the madcap mythological adventures of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.
So often at The Ensemblist, we talk about the importance of a populating with fully fleshed-out characters. Last season’s Mean Girls and SpongeBob SquarePants each benefit from ensembles that realistically populate the worlds of North Shore High School and Bikini Bottom (respectively, obviously.)
The ensemble of Head Over Heels is not that specific in their characterizations. Yet, with such a small group (four men and four women on stage), they are no less important for populating the world of the show. Yes, they play occasionally small roles like owls and sheep, but those roles are merely costumes for these players to don. More often, they seem like fun actors you’d love to spend a night out dancing with.
With only eight ensemble members onstage, there is ample opportunity to find your favorite ones. My eye kept being drawn to Amber Ardolino and Justin Prescott, who combined flirtatiousness with ferocious precision of movement. But the same characteristics could be applied to each of the eight ensemblists. With such a bevy of fun personalities, you’d be hard pressed not to join them on their lustful, loving journey.