Wednesday, January 13, 2021

"Hit Songs" in Broadway Misfires: Head Over Heels

If you are a regular reader, you know how passionately I feel about Head Over Heels, the short-lived jukebox musical from a couple of years ago. It is actually a bit of a surprise to me that I felt this way - I was only a passing fan of The Go-Go's (I only knew of their Top 40 hits), and I really feel the whole jukebox musical thing is getting tired. But this show was smart, topical, funny and had a lot to say. It also had a top notch cast, brilliant arrangements and orchestrations (by Tom Kitt) and tight, inventive staging by Michael Mayer (director) and Spencer Liff (Choreographer).

Well, the show was a Broadway Misfire so I think it qualifies for this series. I only considered songs that were not mainstream hits from the band, and narrowed it down to three numbers that not only stood out in the show, but deserve to be on every Broadway fan's playlist.

"Hit Songs" in Broadway Misfires:
3 from Head Over Heels

"Beautiful" from Head Over Heels
Music and Lyrics by Charlotte Caffe and Regina Schock
Sung by Bonnie Milligan and the Ensemble

Favorite Lyrics:
My life is ever so perfect
My life has been a bed of roses
And you might think I'm crazy
So what if I am
My head is full of good things
Enough for everyone
Is all I see when I look at me
Every mother's dream
Day by day
Things just keep getting prettier
What a wonderful life
And my life is really quite simple
My life is just what I make it
Why it made this list:
Well, first, it is so damned catchy. It gets in my head and I hum it all day, and it is a great song to belt in the shower... Second, the way it is arranged to be powerful throughout and still builds to a thrilling end, is musical theater ecstasy. Finally, the message it sends of female empowerment through an examination of one's own self-worth is a potent one. 

"Good Girl" from Head Over Heels
Music and Lyrics by Charlotte Caffe and Jane Wiedlin
Sung by Alexandra Socha, Taylor Iman Jones and Bonnie Milligan

Favorite Lyrics:
I'm gonna smile til it hurts
So everybody loves me
I'll bend over backwards
Swallow all my angry words

Good girl, good girl
Better be a good girl
Good dog, good girl
Gonna be a good girl

Why it made this list:
Here's another catchy number, but one that seems at direct odds with my previous choice. It's about the expectations of women by the patriarchy on the surface - the lyrics bear that out easily. Even in the context of the show, the three women are deciding that keeping quiet and doing what they are told may be the best option for the greater good of the kingdom. But is there any real doubt that these women (or the Go-Go's) may "swallow all [their] angry words" now, but when the time comes, they will be up front and in control?

"Automatic Rainy Day" from Head Over Heels
Music and Lyrics by Steve Plunkett, Regina Schock and Jane Wiedlin
Sung by Taylor Iman Jones and Bonnie Milligan

Favorite Lyrics:
Just when it feels like the world is together and whole
You come around
Dragging your permanent cloud and the weather turns cold
Hang around for a repeat of history
Falling down in the hole you dug for free
It's an automatic rainy day when I see you
It's the perfect consolation prize, a little piece of blue
It's an automatic rainy day
It's an automatic rainy day
And when you see the reaction you cause
Does it make you sad?
Do you even realize that you're such a drag?
Why it made this list:
This song, in the show, is played as an emotional turning point power duet, much like "Take Me or Leave Me" from Rent. Jones and Milligan really make a meal out of this song. In this instance, I think the way Kitt has arranged this into a duet adds so much this song, it nearly negates the original song.


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