By Sara Romano and Dorsa Rahbar
Designed and created by students, XMTC’s first live production in two years brought life to the lighthearted wit and modern themes we all needed.
A non-binary delphi. A queen in an Anne Boleyn-style costume grinding on a shepherd impersonating an Amazon. A boastful king whose misogynistic ideals nearly destroy his kingdom. Head Over Heels is unlike any musical you’ve seen, brought to life by a cast and crew whose enthusiasm for the production radiates from the stage.
It’s been nearly three years since theatre and musical productions took the stage live, in front of an audience. Sure, Zoom has allowed us to keep the momentum going with virtual performances, but that was at home. Forgotten was the hustle and bustle of theatre, from the roaring shouts of the production crew to the murmurs of the crowd, struck by anticipation and excitement. Yet, as we emerge from the pandemic, theatre is finally going back to normal. The X Musical Theatre Company (XMTC) is no exception, returning with an electric live and in-person performance for the first time since 2019.
From the first belting note of The Go-Go’s “We Got The Beat,” the musical captures you in its upbeat and humorous grasp. The production follows the escapades of a royal family as they journey to save their kingdom from extinction, which was predicted by a sparkly “non-binary pearl” delphi who tosses forth a Pride flag every time a prophecy is fulfilled. It is a bright and lively musical that explores timely messages of self-love, self-expression and perseverance, setting out to bring change and seek justice.
The genius of this production, brought to life by its talented cast, is how it rarely names the LGBTQ2S+ themes that it touches on, allowing them to simply exist within the witty Shakespearean-esque monologues and quips.
“I think it’s really important to see people represented in a positive light, and not only through hardships,” says Grace Johnson, who played the exuberant and confident Pamela. She is viewed as vain, as she refuses to accept the proposals of her adoring suitors — but she soon discovers that she’s in love with her handmaiden.
Beyond the themes, it’s just plain funny. The shepherd is mocked for his indecipherable rants while the king and queen cheat on each other with each other (it makes sense, trust us). A shrieking viceroy is forced to contend with the prophecies being fulfilled as his daughter embarks on — then halts — a journey to Lesbos. It’s truly a treat to watch the cast return to the stage with these ridiculous and joyous roles.
The students who brought this magical play to life are part of XMTC, a fully student-run, student-managed production company based at X University, formerly known as Ryerson University*. While the company is unaffiliated with the school’s performance program, it is led by around 50 talented students who make up the show’s costume designers, cast, dancers and everything else.
XMTC prepared for months, both virtually and in-person, navigating frequently-evolving safety protocols and finally getting approval to put on a live show.
“We wanted to do something exciting, that’s silly and gets people engaged,” says Haylee Thompson, the director of Head Over Heels. “It’s been so long without performing, but we are so lucky and fortunate to get to present our show in person with an audience.”
It’s safe to say that you can come for the music and clever jokes, but you should stay for the contagious enthusiasm brought on by the cast. The company’s first live theatre performance since 2019 captured the essence of modern production and will be just one of many thrilling performances they will continue to embark on.
*X University, officially known as Ryerson University, is undergoing a renaming process to halt the perpetuation of its namesake’s racism and contribution to cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada. New Wave Zine is committed to honouring and respecting the land we operate on, and to uplift the words and art of First Nations, Métis and Inuit folks.