Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Xanadu (The SOB Review)

Xanadu (The SOB Review) - Helen Hayes Theatre, New York, NY

**1/2 (out of ****)

You've just gotta love a show that doesn't take itself too seriously.

And in the case of Xanadu, how could it? It's based on what is widely considered to be one of the all-time worst movies.

Rather than take a straight approach, literally and figuratively, this Xanadu revels and luxuriates in the extremely dubious nature of its source material about an Australian-accented mythical goddess who's brought to life by the clueless chalk-bearing mortal who drew her -- at Venice Beach -- and flirts with her own mortality by falling in love with him.

Indeed, this is the campiest, most outrageous fun I've had since going Down Under over the Holidays to see Priscilla Queen Of The Desert - The Musical. All of which leads me to wonder: "What is it about the Aussies and campfests, anyway?"

Fortunately, as Xanadu bears out, the score from the film was actually far better than it's credited for. Say what you will about the movie, but John Farrar (who wrote some of Olivia Newton-John's biggest hits) and Jeff Lynne (of Electric Light Orchestra fame) packed the original soundtrack with plenty of memorable tunes, including "I'm Alive," "Magic," "Dancin'" and "All Over The World." And credit director Christopher Ashley and music director Eric Stern with mining the tunesmiths' catalogues even further for other nuggets like "Evil Woman," "Strange Magic" and "Have You Never Been Mellow." All of them make this film-turned-stage musical into more of a jukebox variety than you'd expect.

That point is downright flaunted by Douglas Carter Beane's super silly, yet surprisingly engaging book, which is simply too preposterous to describe. Between all of the libretto's winking and nodding, coupled with the dizzying pace of the Ashley's direction, you'd be forgiven for closing your eyes and missing the whole thing. But thanks to the tuner's eyepopping cast, that's not even an option.

As the muse Clio turned Aussie rollerbabe Kyra, Kerry Butler proves a formidible force with a gorgeous voice coupled with plenty of comic timing. While James Carpinello was on track to portray sidewalk artist Sonny until a nasty fall sidelined him last month, Cheyenne Jackson more than ably stepped into his rollerskates with charm to spare. Stage and screen veteran Tony Roberts gamely takes on dual roles of Danny Maguire and Zeus, and somehow manages to channel his inner Keith Richards. Together as Clio's conspiring sisters, Jackie Hoffman and Mary Testa conjure up beguiling spells that are so over the top I found myself laughing harder than I have in a long, long time.

Then there's the brilliant magic, not only of Dan Knechtges' dazzling roller-boogie choreography (especially given the Helen Hayes' miniscule stage), but also of Zachary Borovay's marvelously captivating and enchanting projection designs, which practically breathe life into Sonny's chalk drawings.

Is Xanadu a great musical? Of course not, and fortunately, it doesn't aspire to be. But if you go into the show with an open mind, don't be surprised if you find this show working its way into your heart.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for ticket information.
Related Stories:
No Khan Job: Xanadu Opens Tonight (July 10, 2007)
Broadway Can-Du? (December 18, 2007)
A Place Where Nobody Dared To Go...Until Now: They Call It Xanadu (July 18, 2006)

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At 11 July, 2007, Blogger Nicole said...

Wow, you actually got me interested in seeing this!

At 11 July, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

It's hard to resist.

To be honest, I had trouble with my star rating system on this one. Part of me wanted to give it three stars, but when I stack it up against other three star shows, it just misses. Yet 2 1/2 hardly seems enough.

Bottom line: I enjoyed the show. 'Nuf said.

At 13 July, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steve, I think we were in NYC at the same time! I can't believe I didn't know you would be there.

I was in town on a theater educators workshop, and saw SIX shows: Grey Gardens, Color Purple, Spring Awakening, In the Heights, 110 in the Shade, and Gypsy (with La LuPone). Crazy.

I am now in DC and will see The Witches of Eastwick at the Signature.

So much culture in such a short time.

(BTW...this is Klyph and Mrs. Steve's friend Erik from Atlanta)

At 15 July, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Xanadu is a great show, and I loved it.

At 16 July, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Erik - You'll have to tell me how you liked each of those shows! Hopefully you're clued into our coming to Atlanta for Dreamgirls later this month!

At 16 July, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Dear Anon - Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed the show!

At 17 July, 2007, Blogger E said...

Well, I do hope to see you when you are in town. As you know, I have a problem with Ms. Holliday, so I won't be at the show. I hope that we can still be friends. : )

My reviews of the shows I saw would take pages and pages. I'll email you. But I will say this: Go see "In the Heights." It was amazing.

At 17 July, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Erik - We can still be friends! Unfortunately, I missed In The Heights and will have to wait til it comes to Broadway.

At 20 May, 2008, Blogger Dale said...

I had a great laugh at the show last Saturday. Fun, funny and I wanted to sing along. My pal Beckeye reviewed it here. I'd have had a tough time with the star rating too. Good job.

At 20 May, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Dale, Glad you enjoyed the show, maybe even more than I did.

Truth be told, in retrospect, the 2 1/2 stars I gave the show seems a tad on the stingy side, but it doesn't quite measure up to 3. Oh well, that's what happens when you award stars, doesn't it?!


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