by Chris Davis
I’ve been thinking a lot about Xanadu and have reached a definitive conclusion (drumroll).
It’s a big mistake to think about Xanadu.
A casual comparison to Brecht’s Good Woman of Setzuan had been considered. No, seriously. Stop laughing. Both take a self-aware approach to performance and feature meddling imperfect deities, and completely unsustainable economic models. There’s a fun little essay in there somewhere.
"Art isn't just for the educated or intelligent" as we are told in Xanadu’s opening sequence. It's also for, "people like you."
Xanadu, which is currently onstage at Playhouse on the Square, is an intentionally ridiculous ELO jukebox musical starring Nicole Hale and Corbin Williams. It’s fashioned after the obliviously ridiculous 1980 roller disco movie of the same name starring Gene Kelly and Olivia Newton John. Director Scott Ferguson and coreographer Jay Rapp delight in the dumbness of it all and the cast spreads stupid all over Michael S. Brewer’s makeshift rink. Clocking in at 90-minutes it’s a short, strong burst of ignorance personified and absolute bliss, start to finish.
As Courtney Oliver cackles during one of her exits, “This is children’s theatre for 40-year-old gay men.” For the record it works just fine for straight folks too.
As Kira, an ancient Greek muse Hale’s painfully affected Australian accent gets funnier as the show progresses. So does the starry-eyed innocence of WIlliams' Sonny, who skates earnestly around the stage in his too-short cutoffs. But this story is genuinely inspired by Greek mythology so naturally the chorus also plays a starring role. Oliver and Carla McDonald are clearly having a blast as a pair of mischievous muses and throw themselves into the over the top air-guitar glory of, “Evil Woman.” The joy is catching.
Kent Fleshman is also terrific as the callous businessman who lost touch with his muse until Sonny spells out his plans to convert an old run down theater into a roller disco.
The big takeaway: It’s better to do stupid shit smartly than smart shit stupidly. Xanadu is a big silly win for Playhouse on the Square. Here’s to smooth rolling.
For ticket info, here’s the click.