By George Basler

Scott Fisher describes SRO Productions III’s next musical, Head Over Heels, as “a little like rock ‘n’ roll Shakespeare.”

An unlikely pairing to be sure. The show combines the music of The Go-Go’s, an all-girl pop band that reached the top of the charts in the 1980s, with Elizabethan dialogue in iambic pentameter that was a big hit back in the day when Shakespeare was knocking audiences dead at the Globe Theater.

But the combination works, said Fisher, who is directing the production, which opens Friday (Jan. 27) and runs for two weekends at the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage in Johnson City.

Don’t let the words iambic pentameter scare you off, he added. Head Over Heels is a jukebox musical that is “very raucous and very fun,” featuring a campy, convoluted plot; lively dance numbers; physical comedy, and a catchy score. The tone is both giddy and brainy.

The musical was conceived by Jeff Whitty, of Avenue Q fame, who wrote the original book. James Magruder later adapted the book after Whitty left the show because of disagreements with original director Michael Mayer. The plot of the show, which ran on Broadway for about six months in 2018-19, is loosely adapted from Sir Philip Sidney’s 16th century prose poem The Arcadia.

“Loosely” is the operative word here. The action centers on the adventures of the royal court of Arcadia after it’s threatened by the mystical Oracle of Delphi with the loss of its “Beat,” a divine power that ensures its prosperity.

Hijinks and romantic entanglements ensue. The musical “is packed with characters questioning their sexuality, a shepherd donning drag to get the girl and a powerful, gender-fluid soothsayer addressed by they/them pronouns,” Entertainment Weekly noted in its review when the show opened on Broadway.

Fisher saw the show on Broadway and thoroughly enjoyed it. Mixed in with the frivolity is a message about the importance of finding your true self and knowing what that true self is, he said.

Message aside, the main reason SRO decided to stage Head Over Heels is that “we wanted to do something that’s fun,” Fisher emphasized. “It’s winter. We wanted to get people out of their houses and make people happy.”

Songs in the show include all of The Go-Go’s big hits such as “Our Lips Are Sealed and “We Got the Beat” as well as some of their lesser-known songs with lyrics that “have more depth than people give them credit for,” Fisher said. Also featured are two radio hits from lead singer Belinda Carlisle’s solo career, “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and “Mad About You.”

Fisher said he is directing the production to make it seem like an Elizabethan theater troupe has set up shop for a performance in Johnson City. The cast totals some 25 actors, with eight leads. Many of the performers are veterans of other SRO Productions. “The ensemble is full of people who have been leads in many of our shows. … It’s a very good ensemble,” he said.

Andrea Gregori, who is playing the Queen of Arcadia, called Head Over Heels “fun” and “invigorating.” Her initial reservations about the concept of mixing a 16th century literary work with rock ‘n’ roll disappeared, she said, because of the cleverness of the writing.

“It’s a timeless story of self-discovery and relationships,” she said. The musical also gives her a chance to show off her dancing skills and “belt out” songs, something that is a change of pace for her vocally.

The show is “dance heavy,” so much so that several choreographers are part of the production team, Fisher said. Hilary Rozek is the musical director.

The show has “a fun vibe” that will uplift people’s spirits, Fisher said. And while having a good time, audience members may gain some insight into the need for acceptance of themselves and others. “It’s a comedy with a point.”

“If you’re a fan of The Go-Go’s, people will love this show,” Gregori concluded. And, yes, she’s a big fan of The Go-Go’s.

IF YOU GO: Head Over Heels will be performed Jan. 27-29 and Feb. 3-5 at the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage, 46 Willow St., Johnson City. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday performances are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25 (students and seniors, $23). To order, go to