We could use a colorful Renaissance farce right now that pokes fun at life. Luckily, there’s director and choreographer Keith Andrews. He’s in the midst of developing the jukebox musical comedy “Head Over Heels” for The Gateway, which opens June 3 to 26. Andrews has worked with The Gateway on a number of hit shows in the past, including “On Your Feet,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Rock of Ages,” and others too numerous to count. The musical is about a happy kingdom about to lose its “beat” if certain bizarre, hilarious prophesies aren’t adhered to. Andrews spoke to the Long Island Advance over the Easter weekend to pique our interest.
Long Island Advance: What are you in the middle of now?
Keith Andrews: We’re casting and did auditions all week trying to find the perfect cast and are narrowing the choices down. No one is definitely on board yet, so we’re figuring it out. But it was the first live auditions we had in a couple of years. We probably saw a couple of hundred actors within two days in New York last week and then on top of that, we had a lot of videos. So much has been virtual lately that we’ve seen auditions from all over the country, so we’re seeing both. We’ll start rehearsals in Bellport on May 17.
LIA: The musical was on Broadway for six months between 2018-2019. Entertainment Weekly gave it a good review, as well as others, and called it “a giddy neon anthem of acceptance.” Is it similar to any other musical?
KA: The music is ‘80’s rock ‘n’ roll by The Go-Go’s, and the story is loosely based on “The Arcadia” by James Shirley, who was a contemporary of Shakespeare. (The first stage presentation was published in 1640.) It has a very diverse cast, and the Broadway production had the first lead character originated by a trans person. As for what show can I compare it to? It’s “Once Upon a Mattress” in its feel, with rock music and a modern sensibility. Every single person who saw it that I talked to thought it was so much fun and it had a healthy run on Broadway. As for its timing, right now I want to rock out and I want to laugh. That’s why I was thrilled The Gateway picked it to debut their season. It’s new to a lot of people and it’s like a party on stage.
LIA: Will the longer time between shows give you extra time to refine it?
KA: I do think we give a good product, but we can take it to the next level with the run extension. When we did “On Your Feet” (the cast danced in the aisles and pulled in the audience members with that one), a lot of people wanted tickets and it was a more limited run. The Gateway is really changing the mindset this year from a summer theater to all year round. They want to be loyal to their regulars and bring in more people as well.
LIA: How many actors are in the musical?
KA: It was a cast of 16 on Broadway and that’s what we’ll do. There are eight main characters and eight in the ensemble. As you know, with ensemble casts, you need to be a great singer, actor, dancer. So we’re already working on the dancing. We’re also getting the Broadway costumes and set. You’ll be getting a good production and one where you can have a good time, laugh, and be invested with the characters.
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