Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey, two members of the all-girl ‘80s band The Go-Go’s, are every bit as cool as one might expect them to be. Like most celebrities, they’re tiny in real life. At a San Francisco press junket for the new Broadway musical based on their music, Weidlin and Caffey donned fashion-forward clothes and happily posed for photos with giddy journalists.
The Go-Go’s seemed pretty giddy themselves. After all, promoting a Broadway-bound musical four decades after forming a punk band was really the last place these women ever thought they’d end up.
Despite being one of the most successful all-female rock bands of all time, or perhaps because of it, the Go-Go’s haven’t always been taken seriously. But the band’s 1980s Southern California new-wave perky punk sound has sold millions of records worldwide thanks to hits like “Our Lips Are Sealed” and “Vacation” — and now comes to this new musical, directed by Tony Award-winner Michael Mayer and featuring their music.
“Head Over Heels,” an Elizabethan romp set in Greece inspired by the 16th century poem “Arcadia” (yes, you read that right), featuring 1980s music and present-day themes, has been more than three years in the making. The mash-up musical follows the story of a royal family that receives a prophecy of doom and must each embark on a journey packed with Shakespearean mistaken identity, love triangles and ultimately, self-discovery.
The five original members of the Go-Go’s — Wiedlin, Caffey, Belinda Carlisle, Gina Schock and Kathy Valentine — have been instrumental in the show’s development, from the 2015 premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival through numerous workshops. “We broke a mold just by existing and it follows that we would be so interested in this mold-breaking musical,” Caffey said.
Now, in the days before “Head Over Heels” has its pre-Broadway engagement at the Curran, the bandmembers can’t really believe their luck. And having this early run in San Francisco before a planned opening at New York’s Hudson Theater is icing on the 40-year career cake.
“San Francisco is the first city we played outside of L.A. back in the day,” Wiedlin explained, confessing that she never expected to live this long, much less see her music on the Broadway stage. “We love this city.”
In the late ’70s and early ’80s, the band performed at the now defunct Mabuhay Gardens in North Beach. Now their music is headlining the Curran, the venue itself a mash-up of a historic 1922 theater with an ultra-modern recent remodel.
That’s exactly what Mayer hopes to do with “Head Over Heels.” The musical, Mayer said, “is definitely a post-modern mash-up. It takes place in Ancient Greece, it’s written in old English, it’s adapted to incorporate Go-Go’s songs.”
Gender fluidity and LGBTQ themes run throughout “Head Over Heels,” and the show is the first-ever Broadway-bound musical to cast a trans woman as the originator of a principal role. Peppermint, a star of the televised drag competition show “RuPaul’s Drag Race” will star as “Pythio.”
The celebration of modern-day love and self-discovery set to the sound of their own music is perhaps what members of the Go-Go’s find most rewarding about “Head Over Heels.”
“The original L.A. punk scene had a lot of gay people. It was no big deal,” Wiedlin said. “It had a lot of women. It was no big deal.”
Caffey added, “This show has women characters that find their strength. The women grow into their power in really beautiful ways.”
Much like the characters in “Head Over Heels,” and 40 years after they started rocking, the members of the Go-Go’s have grown into their own power. The notion that their punk-pop music is now featured in a real-life Broadway musical backed by an all-star creative team is almost too surreal to handle. And they’re giddily open to whatever might come next.
“40 years ago, we all said yes,” smiled Caffey. “Sometimes saying yes can change your life.”
“Head Over Heels” runs April 10 through May 6 at the Curran.