The Elizabethan Era Meets the ‘80s in JMU Fall Musical Mash-up

College of Visual and Performing Arts
Head Over Heels

October 20, 2021 - Set to the music of the iconic 1980s’ all-female rock band The Go-Go’s, Sir Philip Sidney’s 16th-century text The Arcadia moves from page to stage in the James Madison University School of Theatre and Dance’s production of Head Over Heels, a modern-day musical mash-up that runs Wednesday–Friday, November 3–5 @ 8 pm and Saturday, November 6 at 2 pm and 8 pm, with no Sunday matinee, at the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts.

The musical comedy follows the escapades of a royal family on a journey to save their beloved kingdom from extinction—only to discover that the key to survival for all lies within each of their own hearts. “The story is about finding yourself and creating change in the world, themes that are relevant to the world we live in today,” shares Kate Arecchi, faculty director and associate director of the School of Theatre and Dance.

Featuring a cast of 20 musical theatre students, the funny, fast-paced production is set in a fantastical fairytale Elizabethan world where characters speak in heightened language—made popular by Shakespeare—and wear costumes that cross genres and genders. Costumes, which have been repurposed from stock and made from fabric on hand, combine elements of 16th-century fashion including muted-color corsets, ruffs and bum rolls with ‘80s’-style trends ranging from high top and Doc Marten shoes to bright-colored clothing, says student costume designer and junior theatre major Sabrina Simmons. In addition, Simmons says she chose the color black to represent the patriarchy. “Characters shed the black elements of their clothing as the patriarchy is broken down and as they become more of who they are.”

Simmons has brought a unique collaborative approach to costume design by meeting with cast members to talk about what they were comfortable wearing and wanted to wear as well as to learn more about their characters so as to enable the characters to influence the costumes versus the usual costumes influencing the characters. “Sabrina’s process will allow cast members to go on stage loving their costumes and feeling comfortable and excited to be wearing them,” exclaims junior Oshie Mellon, who looks forward to wearing a skirt, corset top and the color orange as an ensemble member/associate choreographer for the dance-heavy show along with senior Colie Vancura.

Mellon says she and fellow musical theatre major Vancura learned the “jazz-funk” dances along with the rest of the ensemble from D.C.-based guest choreographer Ashleigh King, a 2020 Helen Hayes Award winner for Best Choreography in a Musical for The Keegan Theatre’s Legally Blonde. As associate choreographers, Mello and Vancura gave King input on the dances when needed and also choreographed the numbers “Vision of Nowness” on their own and “Cool Jerk” with Arecchi.

This production also includes The Go-Go’s hit songs “We Got the Beat,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “Vacation,” and Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” and “Mad About You,” as well as a rock band featuring music students and guest conductor/guitarist Matthew Osburn, with sound design by Southern Audio based out of Mount Crawford, Virginia.

Rounding out the artistic staff are JMU faculty members Richard Finkelstein (scenic design), Emily Becher-McKeever (lighting design) and Zachary A. Dorsey (dramaturg) as well as JMU student Khadijah Williams (stage manager).

Tickets are $24–$25. For tickets, visit or call the Forbes Center Box Office at (540) 568-7000.

Head Over Heels Cast

Mopsa Olivia Palmer

Gynecia | Crystal Haley

Pamela | Thea Thompson

Musidorus | Josh Polk

Dametas | Blake Mitchell

Basilius | Nathan Yannarell

Philoclea | Makenna Stergion

Pythio | Isaiah Young

Samantha Haughton, Connor Macchi, Hannah Markley, Oshie Mellon, Layla Sartipy, Brandon Settle, Sam Sinnott, Preston Steele, Emily Steindl, Colie Vancura, Christian Walters, Genesis Wilson

Mopsa U/S | Jolie Smith

Gynecia U/S Shannon McCarthy

Pamela U/S | Tessa DeGrace

Musidorus U/S | Sam Sinnott

Dametas U/S | Brandon Settle

Basilius U/S | Connor Macchi

Philoclea U/S | Kendall Pierce

Pythio U/S | Genesis Wilson

Aaron Crouse, Myles Curry, Corrine Krasner, Annie McCarthy, Claudia Obenschain, Mason Vales

Head Over Heels logo courtesy of Broadway Licensing & Subplot Studio.

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Published: Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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