I have never seen the trashy 1980 film "Xanadu" which starred Australian Olivia-Newton John (two years after her successful film "Grease") and Gene Kelley...yes Gene Kelly.
For some reason I did see the Broadway musical Xanadu which starred Kerry Butler, Cheyenne Jackson, and Tony Roberts and I was enthralled with this campy, non-sensical, musical where the actors sing and dance on roller-skates. It went on to win the Outer Critics Award for Best Musical, had a Tony nomination for Best Musical and ran over 500 performances.
When I heard Signature Theatre's Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer chose Xanadu to end their 2011-2012 season, I was looking forward to another Signature success. And I was not disappointed.
When you walk into the theater, you will be given glow sticks to wear. Have you ever seen an audience wearing glow sticks as the lights go down? From the opening number to the ending that featured over 30 disco or mirror balls, you will laugh and enjoy this night of theater.
Thank you to Signature Theatre's 28-year-old associate artistic director Matthew Gardiner who directs a superb cast and also is responsible for the fun choreoraphy assisted by Brianne Camp. (See a nice article on Gardiner by Nelson Pressley in the May 20, 2012 Washington Post.)
The plot which is not necessary concerns a chauk artist Sony Malone in 1980 Venice Beach, California who is frustrated with his unsuccessful life and before he jumps off the Santa Monica pier, is saved by the muse Cleo and her sisters who decide to inspire Malone who then begins the herculean task of opening a disco roller skating rink with no money with the help of real-estate mogul Danny Maguire.
This is a musical for all ages. It helps to have the wonderful Broadway Cast Recording which features the music of Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra): "I'm Alive", Evil Woman", "All Over the World" and the music of John Farrar who wrote the hits "Magic", "Suddenly", and "Have You Never Mellow". There are even numbers for senior citizens with a spoof of the Andrews Sisters.
Kudos for casting the incomporable Erin Weaver and the terrific Charlie Brady in the leading roles of Clio/Kira and Sonny Malone. They shine when they are on stage together.
The evil sisters of Clio/Kiro are Callipe (the amazing Sherri L. Edelen) and Melpomene (the sexy Nova Y. Payton). Wait to you hear them belt out the classic "Evil Woman". Harry A. Winter is terrific as the owner of the old Xanadu nightclub, Danny Maguire (who also has a past with Clio).
The rest of the ensemble are plainly superb and all worthy of mention: Mark Chandler, Jamie Eacker, Kellee Knighten-Hough, and Nickolas Vaughan.
None of this could have been enjoyed without the pit (high above the stage) under the direction of Conductor/Keyboard I Gabriel Mangiante, Jenny Carney on Keyboard II, Steven Walker on Guitar, and Paul Deesling keeps the beat on Drums.
The scenic design (love the neon palm trees) is by Misha Kachman, the funky costumes are by Kathleen Geldard, the clever lighting by Chris Lee, and the wonderful sound design (not easy in a show like this) by Matt Rowe.