Lights, dancing, The Go-Go’s music, fun and queer iconography delighted audiences this past weekend with the theatre and dance department’s production of “Head Over Heels.” The jukebox musical performed in the Baker Theatre after months of rehearsals and various changes throughout the production process. 

Alessandra Fanelli, office manager & admissions coordinator of the Theatre and Dance Department, helmed the process as the director of the piece and utilized support systems as this was her first time directing. “I was given the unique opportunity to direct while also working as a theatre & dance staff member, which certainly presented challenges. I am extremely grateful that I have had this experience as it was my first time directing in this capacity,” stated Fanelli. 

Leanna Niesen ‘24 worked closely with Fanelli, and the rest of the production team, as the production stage manager of the show. “We had a lot of ups and downs but I couldn’t be prouder of the way the cast and team came together to make it happen,” stated Niesen. “It ended up being a very collaborative process where all voices were valued, and I think you could see that in the performances.”

The collaborative dynamics of the space were carefully crafted to make sure people felt comfortable with the process and with each other. Fanelli said, “Seeing an extension of what I believed to be true in collaboration with the vision of my colleagues and team working on this show was one of if not the most special experiences I have had in theatre-making. I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care practice in the arts and how important it is to take care of the humans you are creating with.”

Chloe Zurkan ‘24, who portrayed Basilius, the monarch of Arcadia, discussed how this support from Fanelli influenced their performance and experiences in the show. “I found that a lot of the joy and connection within the cast and crew actually came from the hardest things that we had to face,” stated Zurkan. “Having our director, Allie Fanelli, join us mid-process was such a blessing, and she really allowed our cast to bond in an incredibly special way.”

This support and fun dynamics were celebrated with spirit days and additional initiatives to bring the ensemble together. Rehearsals would also begin with a check-in question of various levels to see how everyone was doing. “It was really important to me that efforts were made to build community, which we also aimed to do by gathering folks for dinner and watching The Go-Go’s documentary, and the spirit days – but I think community is built only with willing participants and that leaders have a responsibility to explain why it’s important to make that investment,” said Fanelli. “If there is no trust in a process, the end product suffers.”

Niesen mentioned, “It was great to see audiences responding and celebrating with us!” These dynamics amongst the cast and crew transcended to the stage as the piece was electric and the joy within the ensemble could be felt amongst the audience. 

Lauren Block ‘26 shared, “I thought the show was really good, it was obvious that so much work had gone into the performance, the costumes especially were so pretty.”

“The energy from the audience was amazing. The energy between cast and crew was palpable. Everyone wanted to see everyone shine, and you could feel that both on-stage and off-stage,” stated Zurkan.

“Towards the end of the process I think we all realized just how much fun we could have with this show. Every show was practically sold out and from what I’ve heard people really enjoyed it. There’s not really much more you could ask for,” expressed Luke McIntyre ‘25, who played Musidorus in the musical. 

With this energy, the performance felt like a celebration and audience members showcased their support by applauding for exciting moments and characters, such as Tommy Kelly’s ‘24 Pythio/Oracle. This electric feeling was also established with the exciting elements of the production, from lavish Elizabethan costumes to the hidden queer easter eggs in the props. Although the vision of the show was changed halfway through the production process, it was not apparent in the final product. 

Zurkan concluded, “It’s no secret that each individual involved in ‘Head Over Heels’ put in a tremendous amount of work and effort to make this show happen and I am truly astounded by their work every single day. Our family of artists made ‘Head Over Heels’ the fabulous production that it was: hilarious, dramatic and heartfelt. I get emotional when thinking about the bonds that I made with the cast and crew because it was an experience unlike any other and I want to thank each and every person involved for being the reason that was possible.”

Johnny '24 is a Theatre and Media and Communication double major at 'Berg. He loves to highlight the voices of artists across campus and to showcase the wide variety of events at Muhlenberg. He likes to think he is funny, but that is up for debate.


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