Alberta Youth Theatre Collective reviews Head Over Heels at Strathcona school

Article content

The Edmonton Journal is proud to host reviews of local high school theatrical productions, written by student reviewers through the Alberta Youth Theatre Collective. Reviews of past shows can be found here

By Avery Pelletier
Morinville Community High School

Article content

What do you get when you combine pop-rock from the 80s, Elizabethan prose from the 1600s, and a generous amount of sparkle? The answer is Strathcona High School’s production of Head Over Heels, a campy, choreography-heavy, and comedic juke-box musical that never ceased to amaze.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Head Over Heels derives its music and name from the catalogue of the Go-Go’s, an all female rock band which emerged from the Los Angeles punk scene in the late 70s. In an unexpected mashup of pop and iambic pentameter, the show’s book is based off of Sir Phillip Sidney’s 17th century work, The Arcadia, and was conceived and originally penned by Jeff Whitty before being adapted by James Magruder. Head Over Heels follows the tale of a family of Arcadian Royals on a quest to save their “beat”, a mystical force of the utmost importance to their kingdom’s prosperity. Throughout their journey the group navigates love, identity, and deception, ultimately reaching a place of acceptance.

As the lovestruck youngest sister, Philoclea, Bridget Gutteridge-Hingston perfectly portrayed the archetype of a Good Girl longing for more and showcased beautifully sweet vocals to match. Playing opposite Gutteridge was Quinn Yerex, who’s performance as the humble shepherd, Musidorus, turned irresistible Amazon warrior princess, Cleophila, was a 2 in 1 deal to be remembered. The pair had excellent chemistry together on stage, making the audience’s sorrow only deeper when tragedy struck for them in the second act. Contrasting some of the more down-to-earth characters was Meredith Watt as Pamela, who’s diva presence dominated the stage. As Pamela’s handmaid and secret love interest, Avaya Link brought a necessary air of angst and longing to her character, delivering a standout performance in her solo, Vacation. The show’s complex language was tackled perfectly by all four actors, making it so that important details were not lost on a present-day audience.

Advertisement 3

Article content

Throughout this production it seemed that the members of Scona’s theatre department had an endless amount of tricks up their ruffled sleeves. The production was performed in the round, and all 360 degrees of the stage were used to their absolute advantage. From complex dance sequences, to soaring harmonies, to a flock of sheep on rollerskates, the production only grew better and better with each scene that progressed. It’s a shame cameras did not exist in 1600’s Arcadia, as every moment was absolutely picture-perfect. Props go out to Dance Captain Ruby Barnett, and Dance Core member Mariana Hernandez, who were particularly excellent in their performances as part of production’s ensemble. Additionally, the lighting work of Grace Cannon, Esther Oloyede, Brooklyn McQueen, and Andy Rockwell perfectly complemented the grand stage-spectacle created by the actors.

From stunning visuals to hilarious and earnest performances, Strathcona High School’s production of Head Over Heels is certainly one of the crown jewels of this year’s spring theatre season.

Head Over Heels Strathcona
Strathcona High School’s production of Head Over Heels. Photo credit to Darla Woodley of Red Socks Photography.Alberta Youth Theatre Collective 2024 Photo by RED SOCKS PHOTOGRAPHY DARLA WOOD /edm

By Maya Palka
St. Oscar Romero High School

Article content

Advertisement 4

Article content

Step into a kaleidoscopic journey where past narratives meet the rhythm of the present in Head Over Heels, a musical spectacle that flips tradition on its head and it dares you to bop to the tune of love, rebellion, and self-discovery. Brace yourself, as Strathcona High School brings a theatrical revolution to its audience where the unexpected is the norm, and every twist and turn leaves you exhilarated and longing for more. This is a rollercoaster ride that will have you head over heels for musical theatre all over again.

Head Over Heels is a jukebox musical comedy that combines elements of a 16th-century prose poem, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney, with the iconic music of the 80’s all female rock band, The Go-Go’s. The story follows the royal family of Arcadia, led by King Basilius and Queen Gynecia, who embark on a journey to save their kingdom from an oracle’s prophecy of doom. Along the way, they encounter mistaken identities, romantic entanglements, and gender-bending twists that challenge traditional notions of love and gender roles. Through vibrant characters, and infectious music, the musical celebrates themes of self discovery, acceptance, and the power of love to overcome all obstacles.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Since the opening number, We Got the Beat, you could absolutely acknowledge that this group of actors have genuine talent. From the moment Meredith Watt (Pamela) stepped into the round, she had the audiences’ undivided attention. Watt had a sensational and confident stage presence and a stunning voice as she hit every high note. Watt’s counterpart Avaya Link (Mopsa) was equally as brilliant. Link never had a dull moment and never broke character once. Her facial expressions were absolutely stunning, and she was entirely in character from start to finish. Watt and Link’s characters explored their relationship and the two actors had impeccable chemistry. The way that they stared into each other’s eyes and their body language was perfect. Bridget Gutteridge-Hingston (Philoclea) played the young naive sister of Pamela, and she nailed every single song. Gutteridge-Hingston almost became Philoclea, as her character was very distinct and she paid much attention to characterization. Her counterpart Quinn Yerex (Mesidorus) complimented her on stage as they had an exquisite relationship, and when they sang Our Lips Are Sealed and Head Over Heels together, they gave the audience chills. Yerex also had flawless characterization, especially when his character pretended to be Cleophila. There was a distinct difference between his two characters.

Advertisement 6

Article content

This production of Head Over Heels was performed beautifully, with amazing costumes and makeup design. Every single actor that performed had distinct and detailed costumes, the thought put into their design was remarkable. The thrilling lighting design was done by Grace Cannon and Esther Oloyede. They absolutely killed it as their choices enhanced the show. The way that they made use of space was unbelievable. Entrances from every corner, the smooth transitions of taking the set on and off stage was phenomenal, and the set design of the swings was breathtaking.

Overall, the joyful and uplifting jukebox musical presented by Strathcona High School is a show that is absolutely unforgettable. It invited audiences to embrace love, acceptance, and self-expression while celebrating the beauty of diversity and the transformative power of music presented in the round.

Head Over Heels Strathcona
Strathcona High School’s production of Head Over Heels. Photo credit to Darla Woodley of Red Socks Photography.Alberta Youth Theatre Collective 2024 Photo by RED SOCKS PHOTOGRAPHY DARLA WOOD /edm

By McKenzie Nolin
Morinville Community High School

Strathcona High School’s hilariously charming production of Head Over Heels was met with rounds of laughter and applause. Every scene had new surprises and details for the audience to decipher; it certainly kept us enticed in the world of Arcadia.

Advertisement 7

Article content

Head Over Heels is a jukebox musical with songs from The Go-Go’s, it’s also based on The Arcadia by Sir Philip Sidney and adapted by James Magruder. In 2018, Head Over Heels opened on Broadway and told the story of a royal family’s journey to keep their “beat.” The story of the power in finding yourself is progressively more and more relevant as the years go by.

The elements of love and passion were displayed beautifully and effectively throughout the show by Strathcona High School, from the 360 degree stage to roller skates and many other surprises waiting to fall from the sky. All of the actors and ensemble were heavily involved and invested in the world of Arcadia. The astonishing amount of new skills that had to be learned had the entire audience in awe. It would be wrong of me not to mention Von Andrew Collado as Pythio, who had the audience in laughter and complete awe in the beauty of their performance. Von Andrew Collado displayed so much of the theatrical beauty in acting. In addition, Meredith Watt as Pamela and Avaya Link as Mopsa had such astonishing chemistry on stage and both of them showed strong acting skills. How could I possibly ramble on without mentioning the amazing and astonishing performance by all actors of the ensemble? The extremely hard work by everyone was shown through their beautifully organized choreography and dancing skill. Even though some of the ensemble had never been dancers before, they blended in seamlessly with each other and worked together to create astonishing performances.

Advertisement 8

Article content

The production of Head Over Heels by Strathcona High School displayed no shortage of talent, the brilliance of their actors was displayed through their ability to overcome technical challenges while staying in character the whole time. It was easy to find yourself getting lost in this world, and there were times where you felt like you were really there with the actors and the beautiful lighting and effects used supported the concept with ease. Overall, I am more than impressed with this show and would easily recommend it to anyone who loves the art of theatre and performance.

Head Over Heels Strathcona
Strathcona High School’s production of Head Over Heels. Photo credit to Darla Woodley of Red Socks Photography.Alberta Youth Theatre Collective 2024 Photo by RED SOCKS PHOTOGRAPHY DARLA WOOD /edm

By Mackenzie Kneller
J. Percy Page High School

Head Over Heels performed by Strathcona High School is a jukebox musical featuring music from the Go-Go’s written entirely in iambic pentameter and Elizabethan prose as well as being dance-heavy and performed in the round. With a large cast and live band, this show presents many challenges for the students to overcome and they managed to pull it off. This fast-paced musical follows Musidorus, Philoclea, Pamela and Mopsa on their journey through love as the king, Basilius demands they go on a journey to prevent the collapse of their kingdom.

Advertisement 9

Article content

The main cast were able to utilize a challenging script, deliver the comedic aspects of the show and keep the beat creating a smooth running show. The cast did a wonderful job maintaining their characters. Pamela played by Meredith Watt had excellent stage presence and her expressiveness and gestures as well as her ability to project her voice was outstanding and made her character stand out.

Despite being a comedy, the emotional moments were just as powerful. As flower petals were dropped from the roof and the cast fell to the ground, the audience could feel the anguish during an emotional scene. The theatre being set in the round, they created a beautiful scene for the audience no matter what side of the stage they were located on. The cast used the round quite well, having picturesque formations while still being able to showcase what was happening even when the actor was not facing a section of the audience. The cast members also got close to the audience during dance numbers creating an intimacy between the cast and the audience.

The costuming was well done with each person in the cast’s outfit feeling unique even if they weren’t part of the main cast. The speed at which Musidorus, played by Quinn Yerex, managed to switch between costumes, especially the more complicated one at the end, was amazing. The props were well-crafted with the added challenge of having to be able to dance with them, especially the props that came down from the ceiling. When the swings came down, and the snake started to move, the audience was awestruck. The lighting was well-done with the changing of colours helping support the fast-paced nature of the show. The strobe lights especially brought attention to major scenes and transformations and were used in the show well.

Advertisement 10

Article content

Strathcona High School’s production of Head Over Heels was heart-warming and full of love. Leaving the audience with a show to think about in the future.

Head Over Heels Strathcona
Strathcona High School’s production of Head Over Heels. Photo credit to Darla Woodley of Red Socks Photography.Alberta Youth Theatre Collective 2024 Photo by RED SOCKS PHOTOGRAPHY DARLA WOOD /edm

By Jay-Cee White-Arcand
Morinville Community High School

Sometimes, in the flurry of activity that is high school theatrical shows, a performance goes beyond the stage and leaves a lasting impression on the audience. This was the case with the brilliant students of Strathcona High School’s recent production of Head Over Heels. Adapted from a 16th-century play with a mix of 80s rock, this production delves into the love story of the kingdom of Arcadia. Within the royal family, they are faced with the struggles of love.

The well-thought-out set design captured the audience’s attention from the very first moments of the play. An amazing stage image was created from all four angles by the towering presence of hanging vines and even a gigantic snake above the audience and stage. The intricate details, such as the period-appropriate clothing and the stone pillars that framed each side of the stage, added to the production’s authenticity and transported the audience to early 16th-century Arcadia. The crowd was amazed and entertained by the ingenious usage of the catwalk, which saw set pieces seemingly failing from above.

Advertisement 11

Article content

Any production’s success mostly depended on the cast’s performances and the Strathcona pupils’ outstanding character portrayals. Meredith Watt was a compelling presence as the melodramatic Pamela, enthralling the audience with her excellent singing and demanding demeanour. In contrast, Quinn Yerex had a powerful performance as the humorous shepherd who, although yearning for his forbidden sweetheart, was confronted by others who also crave their own forbidden lover.

The supporting cast was excellent in their parts as well, adding to the captivating tale of the people that moved around the stage. Libby Petersen’s portrayal of the steely resolve of the queen or the amusing antics of the royal children were only two examples of the severe authority of the queen that each performer gave subtlety and realism.

The production’s ability to recreate the 16th-century speech while preserving the Go-Go’s 80s rock sound was one of its most amazing achievements. Astonishment was evoked by the production, which persisted long after it ended, with subtle lighting cues and a rocking musical composition. The audience was captivated by the love story, even at the expertly constructed humorous moments.

Advertisement 12

Article content

All things considered, the high school rendition of Head Over Heels was simply amazing. The play conveyed the essence of Head Over Heels with its exquisitely constructed atmosphere and enthralling performances, leaving a lasting effect on everyone who had the honour of witnessing it. It became clear as the last musical notes died away that this play would go down in history as one of the best in the Strathcona high school’s theatrical repertory for many years to come.

Recommended from Editorial

Article content