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
Andrew Jackson: Army General, Governor of Florida, U.S. President, and… rock star… hmmmmm. Well, stranger things have happened in modern pop culture. And if Abraham Lincoln can now be a vampire hunter in literature and on screen, why can’t Andrew Jackson be a rock star on stage? Hold on to your hats, as the Beck Center for the Arts presents Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a little history lesson on our seventh president. But this ain’t like any history lesson that you done learned in school. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a comedic and high-energy Wild West rock musical. The Studio Theater has been transformed into a western saloon where Dan Folino, in the title role, heads a cast of fifteen actors who bring Jackson’s story to life with a great joie de vivre.
The show follows Andrew Jackson’s life from his boyhood in the hills of Tennessee to his very last days. And some other famous Americans, even a few Indians, come along for the ride. It explores the themes of populism, the Indian Removal Act, the birth of the Democratic Party, and Jackson’s relationships with his wife, the Native Americans, and other political figures of the day. And in true Broadway style, much of this is achieved in song.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson originally ran off-Broadway, but the show later enjoyed a brief 2010 Broadway run for which it received positive reviews. The show is a very modern and unconventional Broadway show, very different from a classic musical, but just as thoroughly enjoyable. For me, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is somewhat reminiscent of the musical Lizzie Borden in that it takes somewhat questionable material for a musical and gives it flight with a pulsating rock score. The two blend beautifully in giving us one of the most creative Broadway shows of the 21st Century. And you will never think of Andrew Jackson in the same way again.
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson proves that, on Broadway, anything is possible. It provides for a fun and exciting night at the theatre, and it comes very highly recommended. Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is a rollicking good time!
Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson will continue through July 1 in the Studio Theater. And then stay tuned for Legally Blonde: The Musical (July 6 – August 12) closing the 2011-2012 Season on the Mackey Main Stage.
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, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Legally Blonde, or the new 2012-2013 Season please visit the Beck Center’s website at www.BeckCenter.org.
– Christopher S. Musselman
Life can be so cruel sometimes. Just ask Alexandra, an elderly widow living in Brooklyn, New York, as no one knows this better than she. The regional premiere of The Velocity of Autumn is now playing in the intimate Studio Theater at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, and it is definitely a play worth seeing.
The Velocity of Autumn is the story of Alexandra and how she comes to terms with getting older while still maintaining her dignity. This wonderful new play is an entirely “Cleveland” production. It was written by Greater Cleveland’s own Eric Coble. And it stars local theatre legend Dorothy Silver, as Alexandra, and local actor and playwright David Hansen, as Chris.
Despite her children’s attempts to move her into a nursing home, Alexandra refuses to leave her Brooklyn brownstone. And just wanting to be left alone, she barricades herself within the brownstone and threatens to blow up the building with her in it! Her estranged son Chris arrives through an open window. And although their reunion starts out a bit “rocky,” they eventually, reach an understanding as they walk down memory lane and reconnect.
The Velocity of Autumn is a touching play that will warm your heart and just might bring a tear to your eye. And anyone who has ever had an elderly parent or grandparent will relate to this very poignant story of family and the ties that bind. The Velocity of Autumn is an excellent production, and it comes highly recommended.
The Velocity of Autumn will run through April 29. (Note that there will be no performances Easter Weekend, April 6-8.) Up next at the Beck Center for the Arts is Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (May 25 – July 1) in the Studio Theater. And Legally Blonde: The Musical will close the 2011-2012 season (July 6 – August 12) on the Mackey Main Stage. Be sure to secure your seats for these much anticipated productions. And check out the Beck Center’s Flex Passes, a convenient way to enjoy multiple performances, and a great savings, too.
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, The Velocity of Autumn, or Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, please visit the Beck Center’s website at www.BeckCenter.org.
- Christopher S. Musselman
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has returned to the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood. This is a great show for the entire family, as a cast of 44 actors, including 16 school-age children in the Youth Chorus, brings this magical story to life with bright lights, vibrant colors, and joyful song.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tells the Biblical story of Joseph of Canaan, found in the Book of Genesis. As the show opens, the Narrator introduces us to Jacob and his 12 sons. Joseph’s brothers become jealous of their father’s favorite son after Jacob gives him a beautiful “coat of many colors.” In retaliation, they sell Joseph into slavery, and he is taken to Egypt.
Joseph lives several years as a slave, but after interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, he is promoted to the second most powerful man in Egypt. Eventually, a happy ending comes about as Joseph reconciles with his family, and they join him in Egypt. The show incorporates a lot of humor and parody, especially in its menagerie of musical styles, including French ballads, the Charleston, country-western, reggae, disco, and even Elvis-inspired rock and roll.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is now playing at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood. And this production truly is amazing. A cast of 43 actors, including 15 school-age children in the youth chorus, brings this magical story to life with bright lights, vibrant colors and joyful song.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tells the Biblical story of Joseph of Canaan, found in the Book of Genesis. As the show opens, the narrator introduces us to Jacob and his 12 sons. Joseph’s brothers become jealous of their father’s favorite son after Jacob gives him a beautiful “coat of many colors.” In retaliation, they sell Joseph into slavery, and he is taken to Egypt.
Joseph passes several years as a slave, but after interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, he is promoted to the second most powerful man in Egypt. Eventually, a happy ending comes about as Joseph reconciles with his family, and they join him in Egypt. The show incorporates a lot of humor and parody, especially in its menagerie of musical styles, including French ballads, the Charleston, country-western, reggae, disco, and even Elvis-inspired rock and roll.
Tricia Tanguy is superb as the narrator. Her facial expressions alone are priceless, and her interaction and rapport with the children of the youth chorus are very endearing. Connor O’Brien is the perfect Joseph, just as good as Donny Osmond or any previous actor to play the part. The other cast members, including the children, play their parts with a zest for life and storytelling. The beautiful sets and costumes, too, make this Joseph a stellar production.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has always been a Broadway favorite for community and school performances. It is a fun show, but also wholesome and appropriate for the entire family. Joseph, written in 1968, was the second collaboration by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. This powerhouse British team would soon collaborate on another classic of musical theatre, the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar (1970). And Lloyd Webber and Rice’s rock opera Evita (1976) would arrive six years later.
This was my first viewing of Joseph, and I was thoroughly amazed by the show. For anyone who has not seen this modern Broadway classic, I highly recommend it. It is everything a Broadway spectacular should be. And although it is not a “holiday show,” it is perfect for the holidays. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will run through January 2, 2011.
Coming this spring to the Beck Center for the Arts is the regional premiere of Jerry Springer: The Opera in the Studio Theater (February 18 – March 27) and The Underpants on the Mackey Main Stage (April 1-23). And coming this summer will be Hairspray, Broadway’s smash hit musical (July 8 – August 14).
The Beck Center for the Arts is located at 17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood. Convenient, free on-site parking is available. For information on showtimes, pricing, and future productions, please visit the Beck Center’s website at www.beckcenter.org.
– Submitted by Christopher S. Musselman, guest blogger
As the show opens, a former spelling bee winner and hostess of the “bee” introduces the six spelling finalists. (And be forewarned, following the opening number, four audience members are brought up on stage to participate in the spelling bee through the first act.) Throughout the show, we learn more about the spelling bee finalists: their backgrounds, family life, present fears and future aspirations. One by one, the finalists are eliminated to the moment when the new Putnam County Spelling Bee winner is announced. The show is cute, endearing and funny, and it reminds us all what it was like to be a “little kid in a big world.”
I saw the touring production of this show when it came to PlayhouseSquare two years ago. I have to say that I actually enjoyed this performance a little more. The set design was even better than that of the touring production. The Beck Center is a more intimate setting, which gives this show a very different feel from those put on in a larger theater. The smaller venue actually made me feel as though I was really attending a spelling bee. Overall, performances were excellent and the humor of the show and that of the actors/characters keep me laughing in my seat the entire time.