If you happened to have seen the 1980 motion picture of the same name, you may be a little surprised to see that this disastrous film has made it to Broadway and is now touring across the nation. This wasn’t a heavily backed production from any conglomerate or large veteran production companies. Instead Xanadu was formed by a handful of inspired young writers and producers to create something completely fresh and different from your typical high-class Broadway musical.
The film is a major cult-classic, which is different from favorites like Gone with the Wind. Xanadu is quite frankly so horrible it’s good. Now why would anyone with the right sense of mind think producing an on-stage musical of this terribly silly film be a good idea, let alone profitable? It’s simple really. Xanadu is self-aware and pokes fun of itself of all the glorious cheesiness that has made the movie such a cult-classic.
Xanadu is 110 percent over the top and absolutely ridiculous. However, once the audience realizes the tone of the show it’s actually incredibly hilarious and wildly entertaining. It’s glitzy and a little campy, but remains solid as that’s really the point of the whole production. Little did I know going into this that the Broadway musical is just a down-right comedy. It took me a little while to realize the tone of the show and whether or not it was making fun of itself entirely or trying to be semi-serious. It turns out that the whole show is all about laughing at the outrageous story line and the stereotyped characters of motion picture.
The story follows a ‘Keanu Reeves-like’ surfer dude, Sonny, living in Venice, California when a Greek muse, Clio, descends from a painted mural on a brick wall that ends up helping Sonny bring to life his dream of… you guessed it, owning a roller disco! Clio, whose secret alias on Earth is an Australian 80’s roller skater named Kira, breaks the rules set by Zeus and ends up in the middle of a forbidden love story with a mortal. Kira’s muse sisters try to take advantage of this for their own profit in a story about following what you believe in.
With a cast of only 9, plus two skaters, Xanadu is put on by an astonishing small group with most doubling as multiple characters. The play even poke fun at the fact that one cast member couldn’t be there for a scene because of cast doubling issues. If done too much, this style of comedy can become tiresome and annoying. Xanadu however stays strong and uses the right balance between sincerity and breaking down the 4th wall with the audience keeping the humor fresh.
Nonetheless, the cast wasn’t phenomenal. Each member definitely had their own originality with many stand-out comedic lines, but I really wasn’t too impressed with the overdone stereotypes of “ghetto sista” type jokes. The leading lady, Elizabeth Stanley, was quite hysterical though. Every moment of her performance had great physical comedy and over-the-top extremities that had the whole audience cracking up. An old love interest of Clio played by Larry Marshall was also a wonderful character and an excellent casting choice. Marshall had a strong voice and was very charismatic. He pretty much stole the show.
Being a set loving person, it’s a little disappointing that it’s essentially the same set the entire show, but there are some nice effects and some quite cheesy effects put into place for the purpose of comedy. Strangely enough, a select few actually sit on stage during the entire show where the cast actually interacts and with them throughout the show. Fortunately, the set still gets the job done and I was over it quickly. However be forewarned, there is no intermission in this musical.
Xanadu is 90 minutes of refreshing entertainment that is unlike any other Broadway musical. This is an upbeat youthful show with spunk that’s good for the whole family! It’s great for a fun night out and is extremely light hearted. This is not a perfect musical and probably not one of the best, but at the moment, it’s probably the best thing going on in Orange County. Xanadu is now playing at the Orange County Performing Arts Center until December 27th. Just in time for the Holidays.
Tickets are now on sale starting at $20 and are available at OCPAC.org, the Center’s Box Office or by calling (714) 556-2787.
For more information you can visit xanaduontour.com.