And it just might inspire you to dust off those quad skates from your childhood
The Arts Club’s parody of the 1980 camp-cult movie Xanadu is a roaring good time. A musical comedy on roller-skates, the Dean Paul Gibson-directed show opens with an artist in ‘80s cut-offs named Sonny Malone (Gaelan Beatty), who feels artistically depressed. The ancient Greek muses hear Sonny’s plea for help and Clio (Marlie Collins) adopts the persona of Kira — complete with leg warmers, roller skates, and an Australian accent — to descend to earth and inspire Sonny.
When Sonny meets Kira, his life magically begins to change and he decides to open a roller disco in true ‘80s style. Beatty and Collins are dynamic together and the entire cast has strong singing voices — including Collins’s nasal Newton-John impersonation — which makes for a delightful performance and had the audience singing and clapping along.
The supporting cast never stops their tongue-in-cheek comments, which sometimes feels over the top. While Stephanie Liatopoulos and Cailin Stadnyk (as the muses Erato and Euterpe) are funny and talented performers, they are overshadowed by their muse sisters; Thalia (Vincent Tong) and Terpsicore (J. Cameron Barnett) never stop trying to outdo the other with gay sass.
Though the original film bombed at the box office, the soundtrack, with music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, took off. Douglas Carter Beane adapted the film for Broadway and infused it with more Greek mythology, including a nod to 1981’s Clash of the Titans that leads to an interesting subplot.
The muses, Zeus’s daughters, are forbidden to do two things: help create the art they inspire, and fall in love with a mortal. Clio’s jealous older sisters, Callipoe (Bonnie Panych) and Melpomene (Beatrice Zeilinger) decide to put a curse on Clio/Kira to have her fall in love with Sonny and thereby be cast out from Mount Olympus by papa Zeus. Panych and Zeilinger are fantastic, sort of a Pinky-and-the-Brain-esque pairing with perfect comedic timing and a marvelous performance of “Evil Woman”.
The choreography (by Lisa Stevens) is fantastic — especially Vincent Tong during a flashback tribute to Gene Kelly’s signature dance moves. The set design (Kevin McAllister) and costumes (Rebekka Sorensen) are simple and sometimes silly, but anything more complex would be too much.
Unfortunately, the theme of art’s importance is overshadowed by the fromage factor. The show calls attention to double-casting, harps on stereotypes, and nearly ignores the four-piece live band. But Xanadu is a fantastic production, perfect for a bit of summer silliness and sure to leave you laughing.