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The Go-Go's Musical 'Head Over Heels' Opens On Broadway With RPDR Alum Peppermint

The new musical Head Over Heels, based on the music of the 80s group The Go-Go’s, opened last night on Broadway to much fanfare and some LGBTQ controversy. 

The new show is a wacky, unpredictable, gender-fluid, campy tale about a royal family trying to avoid an oracle's prophecy of doom. Included in the tuner are Go-Go’s hits like “Vacation,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “We Got the Beat,” and even some later Belinda Carlisle hits like “Mad About You” and “Heaven is a Place on Earth.”

Making history with the musical is RuPaul’s Drag Race alum, Peppermint, who plays the oracle named “Pythio.” Peppermint is the first openly transgender woman to create a principal role on Broadway.

Peppermint gained national attention last year when she was the runner-up on RPDR behind winner, Sasha Velour.

Head Over Heels is the latest project to be helmed by Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer, who boasts a pretty stellar track record that includes Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Spring Awakening, and American Idiot.

The critics were all over the place offering a mixed bag of praise and put-downs.

Here’s a sample:

The Daily Beast: “Head Over Heels is a raucously choreographed (by Spencer Liff) joy—intelligent, winningly comic, and surprisingly-for-Broadway radical when it comes to its presentation of gender and sexuality, with its central love story a lesbian one. This is a mainstream musical with a tunefully, proudly queer heart, featuring former Ru Paul's Drag Race contestant Peppermint, the first transgender woman to originate a principal role in a Broadway musical.”

Variety: “It’s really hard to laugh when somebody’s holding a gun to your head. That’s the way this Go-Go’s feels in Head Over Heels, an over-written, over-designed, and generally overdone production directed by Michael Mayer. From the sets and costumes to the performance style, the basic principle seems to be: Less is boring and more is never enough. Thanks, no doubt, to the Oracle of Delphi (played here by the impishly funny Peppermint), it’s a miracle that at least some of the wit in Jeff Whitty’s original book gets through.”

Entertainment Weekly: Directed by Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening, Hedwig and the Angry Inch), the joyful production dials the camp to 11; this is a show with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, except when it's in someone else's mouth.

Deadline: “For better or worse, Broadway’s Head Over Heels is stuck with being known as “the Go-Go’s musical” – better because of the good will floating on stage with all those lighter-than-air hits by Belinda Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin, et.al., worse because the hard-working new production can’t seem to keep itself from popping those effervescence tune bubbles one by one.”

Hollywood Reporter: If you have trouble imagining songs like "Vacation" and "Cool Jerk" fitting into a scenario depicting a royal family's romantic complications, you still will after seeing this relentlessly frothy musical, for which the term "check your brain at the door" could have been invented. The farcical, gender-fluid shenanigans are as campy as things get on Broadway. And that's saying something.

The New York Post: The new musical "Head Over Heels," which opened Thursday on Broadway, takes the songs of '80s American girl group the Go-Go's, plops them in a British story from the 16th century and adds a bunch of modern, self-referential jokes. It's an idea that's so crazy, it just might work! It doesn't. This indulgent show is wackier than it is fun, and elicits more "huh?" than "ha". Worse, it treats the catchy pop music like a side of spinach. 

Chicago Tribune: A lot of harder-edged Go-Go's fans who find their way through the door will wonder what on earth all of these silly theater people are doing with their beloved music, not just because it feels so far removed from its original pioneering context but also because the sensibility here so doubles down on fluttery theatricality at the expense of raw, charged, visceral, feminist pop.

The New York Times: “You would think that a sexually polymorphous musical that combines a Renaissance pastoral romance with the songs of the 1980s California rock group the Go-Go’s would at the very least be a hoot, a show that could get sloppy drunk on its own outrageousness. Yet Head Over Heels, which opened on Thursday night at the Hudson Theater, feels as timid and awkward as the new kid on the first day of school. Make that the new kid who longs to run with the wild crowd but can’t quite commit to being as bad as coolness demands. Directed by Michael Mayer, who has been more than competent at the helm of Broadway rock musicals like “American Idiot” and “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Head Over Heels” lacks the courage of its contradictions. It mutters deferentially when what you want is a rebel yell.”

There was a bit of controversy regarding the NY Times review as critic Ben Brantley was forced to issue a statement to the public and edit his review after there was a huge outcry about his use of flippant language regarding transgender and non-binary people.

In his original text, Brantley referred to the word ‘binary’ as “what’s starting to feel like the decade’s most overused word.”

His statement read: “I feel horrible about having offended transgender and nonbinary communities. I was trying to reflect the light tone of the show, as well as a plot point in which one character learns to acknowledge another not as ‘she’ but as ‘they’ - this was meant to be a reference to the character of the Oracle, not Peppermint, the person who plays the role. This unfortunately read as more flippant than I would ever have intended, especially with regard to a performance that marks a historical first. I am deeply sorry.”

Additionally, The Wall Street Journal caught flack for publishing an article on Monday, "Theater Patrons Not Going Gaga Over Go-Go’s Musical," bringing attention to weak preview ticket sales. 

What do you think, readers? Does Head Over Heels sound like a show you’d like to ‘Go-Go’ see?

 

 

Drag Legend Peppermint & Hip-Hop Star Cazwell Talk About Their New EP 'Blend'

Could this collaboration be any sweeter? Drag legend (and finalist on RuPaul's Drag Race season 9) Peppermint and hip-hop star Cazwell have joined forces to create a sickening EP called Blend.

The EP, which consists of three high-energy tracks, was just released on Friday to a ton of great response from critics and fans alike, who see these songs as being major hits at the clubs coming spring and summer.  The NYC-based performers have a busy couple of months ahead of them, both together and on their own, but they will no doubt make sure that Blend will be your go to EP for gay pride and beyond.

I spoke with both of them this week on what brought them together to work on this project, their favorite tracks, Peppermint's upcoming stint on the Broadway stage and so much more.  Take a look. 

What inspired the two of you to collaborate on this project?

Peppermint: We've always been two peas in a pod. It's as if we were separated at birth. We have the same hip-hop sensibility and we've always loved the same music from Biggie to Lil’ Kim to Prince and Madonna. This flavor of musical collaboration was always the next step. 

Cazwell: Peppermint and I have worked on a couple of tracks together over the past 10 years and we wanted to do a collection of songs, so we put together this three song EP. We want to do something that had meaning for us but  we could also play at the clubs.

There are three songs off the EP.  Can you tell us how each came about?

Peppermint: “Blend” is very personal, we wanted to have a song that was uplifting and talked about the pressures in the trans community to fit in and blend. 

Cazwell: “Blend: is a contemporary pop song transanthem. “Harlem Cleopatra” is more of a house track that explores the darker side of being trans and living in the city. “Turning It” is just a feel-good dance track about staying positive no matter what.

Do you have a favorite of the three, and why?

Peppermint:  I've been living the life of a fly girl in Harlem for years now. I've always wanted to put out a song about it. 

Cazwell: Right now, my favorite song on the album is “Harlem Cleopatra”. I’m really happy with the rap performances on the track and the hook is killer.

For Peppermint: is music something you want to primarily focus on in the future, outside of your starring role on Broadway?

Peppermint:  Music has always been my first love. Cazwell was actually a guest on my first single that I released in 2007, " Serving It Up!" I've made a couple of full length albums since then and I definitely don't plan on stopping. Music is my life.

Do you both plan on doing some tour dates to support the EP?

Cazwell: As soon as I can peel Peppermint off Broadway we will be doing some tour dates, but probably closer to August.

Peppermint:  Although I am preparing for a debut in the new Broadway musical, Head Over Heels, we are definitely planning some touring: this spring on the west coast and summer on the east coast!

Besides the fabulous music, what other things do you both have planned coming up this year?

Peppermint: I have a new YouTube show called "Pep Talks" where I interview drag race queens. 

Cazwell: We are going to be dropping a video for every song on the EP. I am dropping a few new songs and videos for the summertime so look out for them.

For purchase information, click here.

Is it too late to RuPaulogize?!

Seems like Mama Ru is in hot water after an interview that was published by The Guardian in which RuPaul gives great insight into his life as an icon and the purpose behind the global phenomenon of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

During the interview, Ru delineates how Drag is a way to denounce masculinity with the purpose of appearing hyperfeminine, although we’ve seen many versions of drag that are gender-bending:

Drag loses its sense of danger and its sense of irony once it’s not men doing it, because at its core it’s a social statement and a big f-you to male-dominated culture. So for men to do it, it’s really punk rock, because it’s a real rejection of masculinity.

He also touches on the over-arching reasoning for why drag is a necessary construct:

For people to do drag and make it their profession in a male-dominated culture, they have to go through so much emotional tug-of-war, because society says, ‘You’re not supposed to do that.’ So, the strength and humanity it takes to maintain yourself and your dreams create many different layers of consciousness. That’s where the humanity comes from.

But when it comes to the subject of transgender competitors on RPDR, a topic that has been highly discussed among drag race face, RuPaul goes in on his philosophy for how trans and drag should essentially remain separate. He first mentions Peppermint, a contestant from Season 9 of RPDR:

Mmmm. It’s an interesting area. Peppermint didn’t get breast implants until after she left our show; she was identifying as a woman, but she hadn’t really transitioned. 

Then he was asked if he would he accept a contestant who had.

Probably not. You can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body. It takes on a different thing; it changes the whole concept of what we’re doing. We’ve had some girls who’ve had some injections in the face and maybe a little bit in the butt here and there, but they haven’t transitioned.

Peppermint is not the only trans contestant on RPDR, but she was the first openly trans to make it onto the show. Other contestants have either came out as trans on the show like Sonique and Monica Beverly Hillz, while others have come out after Carmen Carrera, Gia Gunn, Kenya Michaels, Jiggly Caliente, and Stacy Layne Matthews. Jinx Monsoon has come out as gender non-binary.

RuPaul has been scrutinized in the past for his opinion about trans drag queens and their place in a competition like Drag Race—and mother sticks to her guns!

Just today, RuPaul tweeted some great shade with respect to the topic:

 

 

 

 

And Ru’s comments are not sitting well with RPDR alums:

 

 

 

 

 

 

But with the backlash, it seems that RuPaul has responded to make sure that everyone knows that there’s nothing but love for the trans community. And while that may be, fans and Ru followers can’t imagine what RPDR would be like today without the inclusion of some fan favorites who are trans and gender non-binary (see above). And what does this mean for the future of the show and the masses who idolize the drag community?

Still, it’s RuPaul Charles, Supermodel of the World—surely it’s not too late for her to Rupologize.

And then there’s this:

 

 

See? It’s obvious that he understands that the same mouth that inspires so many can also hurt others. After all, when approached by producers to create a drag reality show, RuPaul said “I don’t want to do anything mean-spirited.”

 

 

 

 

What do you think about this controversy in the RuPaul’s Drag Race universe? Do you agree with RuPaul or do you feel like there is room for more inclusion?

Worlds Collide: Peppermint and Cazwell Collaborate on New Music 'Blend'

The drag and music world have beautifully collided once again, as RuPaul's Drag Race legend Peppermint and rap superstar Cazwell have collaborated on an amazing new EP called Blend

Available for purchase on March 9th, the Blend EP includes the title track as well as, Turning It Up, and Harlem Cleopatra. The Blend single and music video (see below) became available worldwide on Friday.  The Blend EP pre-order is also available and includes the instant gratification track, Blend. 

 

 

Written by Cazwell and produced by Craig C. Denver., the Blend album includes Peppermint and Cazwell’s influences of house, pop, and rap. The pair who met over a decade ago, wanted to create an EP that was socially and politically relevant. 

We wanted all of the songs to be very trans-positive and tell a story of what it is like being a trans woman in 2018. The title track, ‘Blend’ was written from the state of mind of making a positive trans-anthem. When you are a woman and especially a trans woman you are under a lot of pressure to blend in society so that no one calls you out for being trans. I wanted to write a song that proved the importance of not needing to blend into society to be happy with yourself,” shares Cazwell.

For purchase information, click here.