“Xanadu” at Beck Center for the Arts

Put on your roller skates and leg warmers, Broadway’s musical comedy hit Xanadu has arrived at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood. Based upon the campy 1980 movie musical, which featured Olivia Newton-John and the legendary Gene Kelly, in his final film appearance, Xanadu is silly fun and one of the most delightful shows that I have seen in awhile.

The original film version of Xanadu was mostly panned by critics. But over the years, it has become a cult-classic and retains a great legion of fans. Given new life in the 2007 stage production, Xanadu now shines… and brightly, because it never takes itself too seriously and can laugh at itself. In the same manner that 1995’s The Brady Bunch Movie parodied the original 1970’s television series, the stage version of Xanadu parodies the original 1980 film.

The Broadway production opened in 2007, quickly became a Broadway hit, and ran for more than 500 performances before embarking on a 2008 U.S. tour. Xanadu was nominated for several awards, including the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical. And the show was awarded the 2008 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical and the 2007-2008 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Broadway Musical.

1980, Venice Beach, CA: Down-on-his-luck chalk artist Sonny Malone has created a mural of Mount Olympus and seven muses. Soon they come to life, and one in particular (Clio, as Kira) inspires Sonny to reopen an old, dilapidated auditorium. With help from Danny Maguire, Sonny and Kira create a new roller disco: Xanadu.

The talented cast includes Sam Wolf as a handsome, naïf, and boyishly goofy Sonny Malone. The lovely Kathleen Rooney nearly embodies Olivia Newton-John, as Clio/Kira, while sporting an exaggerated Australian accent and performing the majority of the show on roller skates! And Greg Violand plays the older, mature Danny Maguire. In addition to the principals, we have six sister muses, a couple of them men in drag, who contribute to many of the comedic episodes.  The set is a beautiful mix of faux Greek columns and bright, colorful, flashing lights.

And what is the most important element of a Broadway musical? The music, of course! Despite the unfavorable film reviews, the Xanadu soundtrack album was a great commercial success. And all of your favorite Xanadu songs are here!  From “I’m Alive” and “All Over the World” (Electric Light Orchestra) to “Magic,” “Suddenly,” and the title song “Xanadu” (Olivia Newton-John), Xanadu is a smorgasbord of classic 70’s and 80’s hits.

In addition to songs from the original movie soundtrack, the stage version of Xanadu adds some other classic songs, not in the film, including ELO’s “Evil Woman” and “Strange Magic,” as well as ONJ’s “Have You Never Been Mellow.”  Xanadu will have you singing in your seat and dancing in the aisles. What more can we ask from a Broadway show?

Xanadu is the perfect production to open Beck Center’s new season, get audiences excited, and put them in the mood for all that is yet to come.  Those who have never seen the film version are in for a treat; those who are fans of the film can rediscover Xanadu, all over again.  But I warn you, you will never see the original movie in the same way… and that’s a good thing!

Xanadu runs through October 14 on the Mackey Main Stage.  Up next is The Little Dog Laughed (October 5 – November 11) in the Studio Theater.  And for the holiday season, Beck Center presents a classic American musical for the entire family, the one and only Annie (December 6 – January 7).  2013 will bring Next to Normal (March 1 – April 21), The House of Blue Leaves (March 22 – April 22), and The Pitmen Painters (May 31 – July 7), with Monty Python’s Spamalot (July 12 – August 18) closing the 2012-2013 Season.

The Beck Center for the Arts is located at 17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio.  Convenient, free on-site parking is available.  For more information on the Beck Center, Xanadu, or the 2012-2013 Season, please visit the Beck Center’s website at www.BeckCenter.org.

– Christopher S. Musselman

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