Head Over Heels the Musical - PLOT SYNOPSIS

2018 Broadway
Head Over Heels the Musical - PLOT SYNOPSIS

Head Over Heels is a jukebox musical that adapts the plot of The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, 16th-century prose poem by Sir Philip Sidney. It follows the royal family of Arcadia on their journey to keep their famous "Beat".

Act I

The kingdom of Arcadia is peaceful and prosperous, its people's lives governed by a mysterious "Beat" ("We Got the Beat"). King Basilius and his wife Gynecia have two daughters. The younger, Philoclea, is in love with her childhood friend Musidorus, a shepherd who is not considered an appropriate match. The older, Pamela, is the most beautiful woman in the land, though she confesses to being jealous of her "plain" sister since she does not have to deal with suitors ("Beautiful"). As Basilius berates Pamela for sending another round of suitors away, a message arrives from Arcadia's new oracle Pythio, asking for a meeting with the royal family and warning that Arcadia may lose its famous Beat. Basilius and his loyal viceroy Dametas depart for the forest, with Gynecia reminding her hot-headed husband to listen to what Pythio has to say.

Pythio, who is non binary, explains that the kingdom has become too rigid and traditional, and gives Basilius and Dametas four prophecies. ("Vision of Nowness")

"Thy younger daughter will bring a liar to bed. He thou shall forbid, she he'll then assume."
"Thou elder daughter will consent to wed. She'll consummate her love but with no groom."
"Thou with thy wife, adultery shall commit"
"You will meet and make way for a better king"

They explain that as these prophecies are fulfilled, four flags will fall. If all four fall, the Beat will be lost and the kingdom will succumb to a permanent distemperature, but it is possible to cheat the Oracle. Basilius, for whom the new king is the most pressing matter, decides to leave Arcadia to find and slay him on the road, bringing everyone along so he can keep watchful eyes on his wife and daughters. He lies to his family, explaining that Pythio only prophesized happy ends and that they must hunt a golden stag on the road. Gynecia is suspicious, but the kingdom prepares to embark anyway ("Get Up and Go"). As they are about to leave, Musidorus arrives, and Philoclea persuades her father to let him ask for her hand. The ensuing proposal is inelegant but heartfelt, and Gynecia is convinced. Basilius still thinks that Musidorus will be unable to provide for his daughter, and eventually the two agree. As Philoclea leaves, Musidorus repeats his vow of love and impulsively decides to follow the group ("Mad About You").

On the road, Philoclea asks her sister and Mopsa, Dametas' daughter and Pamela's loyal handmaid, for advice about Musidorus. Pamela tells her that she must do what is best for the kingdom, even if it hurts her specifically ("Good Girl"). Musidorus realizes that his journey was not well-planned, and worries that he may die in the forest before coming across a dead theatre troupe and their belongings. Pythio arrives and tells Musidorus to let his shepherd identity die, and take on a new personage so he can join Philoclea. They suggest the wardrobe and weapons of the Amazon, and Musidorus agrees ("Vision of Nowness" (Reprise)/"Beautiful" (Reprise)). As the traveling kingdom is attacked by a lion, Musidorus rescues Philoclea, and is asked to join the group on their journey. "Cleophila" agrees.

When Mopsa realizes that Pamela's ideal suitor might not be a man at all, she attempts to reassure Pamela by confessing that she has similar feelings. Pamela does not understand, and releases her from her duties. An angry Mopsa decides to leave and "follow her inclinations" to Lesbos ("Automatic Rainy Day"). Cleophila has become quite popular, with Basilius, Pamela, and Gynecia (who learns that "she" is a man, but not her true identity) all developing feelings for her, though Cleophila only has eyes for Philoclea ("Cool Jerk"). While away, Mopsa realizes that her feelings for Pamela remain, and decides to return ("Vacation").

Musidorus is able to evade Dametas' watchful eye with his female disguise, and is about to confess to Philoclea before a jealous and distraught Pamela interrupts them, destroying the room ("How Much More"). Philoclea is shocked that Pamela would be jealous of her and her new friend, and when Cleophila admits that she had reason to be, she realizes that the Amazon is actually Musidorus, and they embrace. Mopsa arrives and confesses her love to Pamela, who reciprocates. As Pythio's first two flags fall, both couples vow to keep their love secret ("Our Lips are Sealed").

Act II

As the trip continues, both couples are happy in their new relationships, though Musidorus must also deal with the king and queen's feelings for Cleophila ("Head Over Heels"). Dametas attempts to warn Basilius about the flags, but he brushes it off, as he is still king and no men have been seen with his daughters. He gives Cleophila a letter for "the one I love most". Doubtful but reassured by Philoclea that this must be for the queen, Cleophila delivers it to her. Basilius and Gynecia make plans to meet each other secretly in the caves, both believing they are writing to Cleophila ("This Old Feeling"). Confused by Mopsa's action, Dametas assures her that he will find her a husband. Mopsa and Pamela are unsure of what their relationship means, but they are elated to find another couple like themselves when they witness Philoclea and Cleophila kissing ("Turn to You").

Gynecia and Basilius both arrive in the pitch black cave to meet Cleophila, actually meeting each other. Pythio facilitates their conjoining, marking the fulfillment of the third prophecy ("Heaven is a Place on Earth"). Mopsa and Pamela tell their secret to their friends, prompting the other two to reveal that Cleophila is actually Musidorus. Though Pamela is initially annoyed that they do not have the same secret, the two sisters reconcile. Basilius and Gynecia arrive arguing, Dametas arrives with all three flags, and confusion breaks out when husband and wife both point out Cleophila as the one they have adultered with. An angry Philoclea explains Cleophila's true identity and that Musidorus is her love, not either of her parents. As the king and queen realize what really happened, Basilius decides that Musidorus must be the new king and challenges him to a duel ("Lust to Love"). Musidorus fights valiantly but is eventually slain.

As Philoclea mourns her lost love ("Here You Are"), Basilius understands the error of his ways. He takes off the crown, offering it to Gynecia, who he believes will be a better ruler. As she takes it, the fourth flag falls and, with all prophecies fulfilled, the citizens of Arcadia are struck with the loss of the Beat. Gynecia tells her people to pray to the gods for a new Beat, and one emerges, as does a golden stag. It is actually Musidorus, revived and returned to the overjoyed Philoclea, who proclaims her love and vows to marry him. Dametas realizes there is still one prophecy, prompting Pamela and Mopsa to admit their love to their surprised but accepting parents. As Dametas wishes that Mopsa's mother could be there, Pythio arrives. They are actually Dametas' lost wife, banished from Arcadia after they confessed their gender identity to him. They promise not to leave Mopsa again, and Dametas apologizes for his cruel treatment, embracing Pythio for who they truly are ("Mad About You" (Reprise)). Musidorus reveals his own gender fluidity, explaining that he plans to "keep Cleophila around". Basilius decides to leave his people, but Gynecia tells him to stay, as she thinks he will become a better man without a crown.

The reunited group travels to the nearest city, only for it to be Arcadia. Realizing that they have traveled in a circle, the group considers how they have changed on their journey and vow to become a wiser and more accepting society with their new Beat ("Finale").

Other Songs: Head Over Heels The Musical Songs Lyrics
Synopsis to Head Over Heels The Musical Plot