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Xanadu

a Musical
CATEGORY :
by Book by Douglas Carter Beane, Music & Lyrics by Jeff Lynne & John Farar based on the Universal Pictures Film, Screenplay by Richard Danus & Marc Rubel

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 4302

SHOWING : May 10, 2012 - June 16, 2012

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

The surprise hit of the 2007-08 Broadway season roller skates its way into Actor's Express in a frothy explosion of camp, comedy and disco! Xanadu uproariously sends up Olivia Newton-John's notorious 1980 film of the same name, in which a feather-haired Greek muse with an Australian accent descends from Mount Olympus to modern-day California to help a hunky young man open a roller disco. Never has a movie begged more for parody - and Xanadu the musical delivers with delicious wit, pure fun and classic disco songs that will have you believing in magic and humming all the way home.


CAST & CREW LIST
Choreographer Ricardo Aponte
Music Director Bill Newberry
Director Sherri Sutton
Muse/Ensemble Mary Nye Bennett
Muse/Ensemble Greg Bosworth
Sonny Malone Jordan Craig
Calliope/Aphrodite Jill Hames
Kira/Clio Lindsey Lamb
Melpomene/Medusa Marcie Millard
Muse/Ensemble Christen C. Orr
Danny Maguire/Zeus Al Stilo
Muse/Ensemble Craig Waldrip
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Oh, For a Muse of Cheesiness!
by Dedalus
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
3.5
I have to ask, what is it about the music that was popular when you�re in your twenties, that sticks (for good or for ill) forever? I was in my twenties in the 1970�s and it was the height of the disco era. At the time, though, I was heavily into concept albums and �rock-goes-to-college� artists (and, of course, musicals), and I absolutely, positively, unequivocally HATED Disco.

Today, I still enjoy the occasional air-keyboard session with Rick Wakeman or Keith Emerson, the classic licks of Alvin Lee guitar, and even the flute-y sounds of Ian Anderson. And I still shudder with dread and exasperation at even the slightest disco beat.

All this may explain my ambivalent reaction to the marvelously cheesy �Xanadu,� the tongue-in-cheek adaption of the 1980 Olivia Newton-John flopperoo movie that helped establish the Razzie awards. Like the rest of the audience, I really enjoyed the first half, with its over-the-top ridiculous plot, its just-plain-fun silliness, and its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to getting us to laugh. Then it makes the mistake of letting us catch our breath with an unwelcome intermission that gives us time to ponder what it is we�re really watching. In other words, it�s a marvelously entertaining 90-minute musical that goes on for about 30 minutes too long.

Let me try to recap the plot without descending into a NSFW fit of giggling. It is 1980, and Sonny Malone is a struggling artist who has reached the end of his rope. The Muse of History, Clio, takes pity on him and assumes earthly form � an Australian roller-skating beauty named Kira � to inspire him to achieve the heights of his ambition � to open a multi-media Roller Disco center. Clio�s less-than-friendly sisters, Melpomene and Calliope, conspire to make her break Zeus� written-in-stone commandments by falling in love (with a mortal!).

I�m sorry, I just fell into a giggling fit at the idea that the height of anyone�s artistic ambition would be to open a roller disco. Sonny is painted as a very dim-bulb Southern California beach boy, and, unfortunately, has little to recommend as anyone�s object-of-affection, let alone the leave-immortality-behind passion that comes over Clio. This is about where I skipped the track, where I began to stop laughing at all the silliness and wince at all the mis-steps that made the original movie so awful.

The script (by the extremely talented Douglas Carter Beane who also gave us the marvelous �The Little Dog Laughed� and �As Bees in Honey Drown�) is filled with laugh-out-loud jokes at the expense of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Southern California, creativity after 1980, and, of course, musicals based on bad movies. But it�s a level of silliness that is fragile, that can come crashing to a dull sameness if the audience is given time to dwell on it for too long. And here we�re given too much time to wonder why the Muse of History is inspiring a painter, on why Clio/Kira even likes this guy (and didn�t like the older-and-much-more interesting Danny Maguire � or, for that matter, Mozart and Chopin), and on why they keep slowing down the story to sing all these god-awful songs, songs that are repeated in a seemingly endless encore during which the audience is invited on stage for an impromptu dance party � always a sure sign of desperation that I always thoroughly detest.

By the time we get to the second act sojourn to Mount Olympus, I was only able to shudder at the desperate cheesiness of it all, and I was not able to get in tune with the rest of the audience�s giddiness. Oh, yes, this is definitely a crowd pleaser (especially if you�re a �forty-year-old gay man� as the show itself admits). I just wish I had as much fun as everyone around me seemed to be having.

Then again, I really really enjoyed this cast. Lindsey Lamb Archer is breathtakingly muse-like as Clio/Kira, and I only wish I had her behind my shoulder now as I struggle to articulate my ambivalence. Al Stilo makes a welcome return to the stage as Danny Maguire, and Marcie Millard and Jill Hames pull out all their prodigious comic talents as Melpomene and Calliope. I liked that two of the sisters were played by men (Craig Waldrip and Greg Bosworth) and the rest of the ensemble-muses created pleasant and distinctive characters that never descended into caricature (Mary Nye Bennett and Christen C. Orr). Yes, I wish Jordan Craig�s Sonny had been less of a wishy-washy blandly dumb doofus, but, Mr. Craig gave him a sad-eyed sincerity that filled in many of the under-written gaps.

But, that music. Blecccchhhhhhh! Sure, I loved ELO at the time, and it was great to hear �Evil Woman� and �Strange Magic� again. I was even pleasantly entertained by the forgettable �Have You Never Been Mellow,� especially in the context used here. But everything else was just so dull and filled with throbbingly banal sameness that I wanted to stab myself in the ears to keep from listening to it. Even the choreography was simplistic to a fault, with Ms. Archer�s roller skating confined to two poses and a lot of gliding (though kudos for the sight gag used in the finale by Ms. Millard).

I am second to none in my appreciation for cheesiness. I�ve even been pleasantly surprised by musicals with a disco retro style (�Mamma Mia� in particular). Even here, I went into the intermission with a song in my heart and a smile on my face. But, apparently, cheesiness soon wears out its welcome, and, mid-way through the second act, that�s pretty much what happened to me here.

Oh, for a muse of cheesiness that would lift the second half of this show to the Olympian Heights achieved by the first. Then, THEN I could grit my teeth, grimly smile, and say, �Great Caesar�s Pinstripes, but that was fun!�

As it is, I will merely sigh and get on with my life.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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