Bwog reviews CMTS’s spring production of Head Over Heels, which ran from April 14-15 in Barnard’s Glicker-Milstein Theatre.

The Columbia Musical Theatre Society returned to the Glicker-Milstein Theatre this weekend with a production of recent Broadway hit Head Over Heels. The show, a jukebox musical set to the music of The Go-Go’s, adapts the story of Sir Philip Sidney’s 16th-century pastoral romance “The Arcadia.” Set in the kingdom of Arcadia, the story follows the royal family—King Basilius, Queen Gynecia, and their two daughters, Pamela and Philoclea—as they attempt to outrun an ominous prophecy from the non-binary oracle Pythio (Jude Poley, BC ‘23). Along the way, each character begins to realize the societal traditions of Arcadia may no longer hold up in the world they want for themselves. As Pythio’s prophecy gradually falls into place, chaos, mistaken identity, and power pop ballads abound. Helmed by an impressive cast and sophomore Is Perlman (CC ‘25) in their directorial debut, Head Over Heels is an ode to queer and trans joy that is equal parts campy, fun, and deeply earnest.  

First-year Bella Williams (BC ‘26) is a standout among a stellar cast, bringing humor, vulnerability, and amazing vocal power to the role of Pamela, the widely sought-after eldest daughter of the king and queen. From her first solo number, “Beautiful,” in which Pamela laments the challenges of being the most sought-after woman in Arcadia, Williams establishes herself as a vocal and comedic powerhouse. She only grows more powerful throughout the show with numbers like the duet “Automatic Rainy Day,” in which Pamela slowly uncovers her feelings of queer attraction, and the delightfully outrageous “How Much More,” in which Williams revels in destroying the set as Pamela vents more of her romantic frustrations. Williams is supported by senior Adelina Correa (CC ‘23)—in yet another powerful performance after turns in Fun Home and In the Heights last year—as Mopsa, Pamela’s love interest. Together, Williams and Correa are the heart of a show that offers heart in spades. 

Equally entertaining are Sadie Klaus (BC ‘23) and Ethan Paulk (CC ‘25) as Gynecia and Basilius, the queen and king of Arcadia. As Gynecia, Klaus is not just a vocal standout (and there are several in this production), but her excellent comedic timing sets her apart as one of the show’s most compelling performers. As Basilius, Paulk balances exciting physical comedy with some of the show’s most dramatic moments—he makes sympathetic and lovable a character who could just as easily have been insufferably tragic. Finally, returning to CMTS after nearly two years, senior Russell Graviet (CC ‘23) steals the show as Dametas, a lovelorn widower, a staunch believer in prophecy, and a loving-but-oblivious father to Mopsa. 

The stellar performances in Head Over Heels are supported by inventive technical work, from an impressive (and creatively costumed) live band to an innovative set design from Amelia Lang (BC ‘25). From the on-stage prop shelf to a tow hook that swung down from the ceiling intermittently to deliver flags that reassured the audience the prophecy was indeed coming true, Lang and tech director Fiona Bird (BC ‘25) made excellent use of the limited space. 

Anchoring the production was director Is Perlman (CC ‘25), whose reverence for the original show is evident in every directorial choice, from the production’s delightfully colorful aesthetic to Perlman’s carefully-curated pre-show soundtrack. In their director’s note, Perlman spoke extensively about being impacted by their first viewing of the show and its powerful depictions of queer and trans joy, as much in its campy ballads and exuberant dance breaks as in its underlying message, a rare love story where every queer character gets a happy ending. If Saturday’s overwhelmingly enthusiastic audience was any indicator, that joy shone throughout this production especially. As a debut, Perlman could not have chosen a more personal show—everything from their director’s note, to their pre-show speech, to the heartfelt words of encouragement from their family on the program’s final page attest to that. Perlman dedicated Saturday’s performance to queer and trans youth in their home state of Florida, borrowing a line from “Beautiful” when they said, “We can make it our world.” With this heartfelt, hilarious, triumphant production, Perlman has certainly made it theirs.

Promotional image via CMTS