A Xemi-Xonic Xanadu Xunday

On Saturday, I ventured out to the Helen Hayes Theater to catch a matinee of the Broadway production of Xanadu, the musical based on the classic, craptastic '80s movie of the same name. Although the MTA Gods tried to prevent me from witnessing this show, I'm happy to report that they did not succeed. (Due to never-ending track work on the N line, I did miss the first 3 minutes or so, but luckily I know how the movie starts, so I didn't miss much. Besides, I heard the whole opening from the lobby.)

I met up with fellow bloggers, Dale and Chelene and a non-blogger whom I'll call "John," because that's his name. Apparently, Chelene and John did not love the play, but Dale thought it was pretty fun. As for me, I loved it because it took me back to a time in my life when there just weren't enough hours in the day for roller skating.

What I enjoyed most about the stage version of Xanadu is that everyone involved is fully aware that it's not to be taken seriously. Any play based on a cheesy, critically bashed '80s flick has to be done with a wink and a giant smirk. And as if Xanadu wasn't enough campy inspiration, writer Douglas Carter Beane also incorporated elements from another ridiculous mythological movie of the era - Clash of the Titans.

Even though the play is supposed to be goofy, all of the acting throughout is really quite good. Kerry Butler is terrific as the muse Clio, who pretends to be a woman named Kira in order to inspire the human, Sonny, to build a roller disco. As a nod to Olivia Newton-John's performance in the movie, "Kira" is an Aussie. One of the running gags throughout the show is that Clio can never quite get a handle on the accent.(Oh, and her leg warmers are to die for.) Mary Testa and Jackie Hoffman are also great as Clio's jealous sisters, Melpomene and Calliope, and they get most of the big belly laughs from the audience. Taking over the Gene Kelly role of Danny Maguire is film and stage vet, Tony Roberts, whom I recognized but couldn't quite place.

The biggest improvement from the movie version (well, virtually everything was an improvement on the movie) was in casting a bona fide hunk in the role of Sonny. I don't know about any of you ladies, but I never found Michael Beck anything to write home about. (I know dudes seem to like him because he was in that dumb street-gang movie, Warriors. But really...ugh.) Superficial stuff aside, Beck was never a very good actor either. However, the play's Cheyenne Jackson boasts a great voice, good comic timing and the most unbelievable sets of arms and legs I've ever seen on a man.

I also have to give a big shout-out to André Ward, who plays one of Clio's sisters, a centaur, and Hermes. His brief, fierce appearance as Hermes provided the biggest laugh of the show.

If you're like me and love campy fun, '80s nostalgia, roller skating and big, hunky men, do yourself a favor and go see this play. If you're a Xanadont like Chelene or John, then steer clear. Just don't go and diss it, unless you want to anger the Noriega God.

One positive thing that can be said of both the movie and the play is that the music is pretty darn catchy. Half of the movie soundtrack was comprised of ELO songs written by Jeff Lynne, and the other half were songs written by John Farrar and performed by Olivia Newton-John. I believe that all of the songs from the movie made it to the stage production, and they also added in a few other ELO tunes like "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic," as well as the old ONJ song, "Have You Never Been Mellow."

Below are a few songs to help get you in the Xana-mood...
(Click link to download.)

"Magic," Olivia Newton-John
"Xanadu," Olivia Newton-John & ELO
"Strange Magic," ELO


The Guv'ner said…
I confess to liking ELO quite a bit so darn, that sounded good to me! Plus who could go see Xanadu and expect a literary masterpiece? No! You go for the dramatic cheese, the musical cheese and the overall cheese! I rate this play: Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar
Doc said…
Flannery loves this goofy movie but it is just too much cheese for me. I wouldn't have sat through it the first time if Gene Kelly wasn't in it. She likes to play it in the background as she folds laundry, and as much as I hate it, I do enjoy the mated socks.

I've never seen the film, and both Olivia Newton-John and ELO have always scared the hell out of me.
But for a chance to hang with bloggers as cool as you guys, I would suck it up and go the musical.
Anonymous said…
Oh I love Xanadu. Made me dream that a little gal from Philly could grow up and use her awesome roller skating skills. I still haven't found a use for them yet...but I'm still hoping. See, now I'm jealous that you got to meet up with Dale.
Falwless said…
So bitchin'. I wish I coulda been there.
Wow. I'm so glad I wasn't alive when that movie came out.
Malcolm said…
I finally saw the movie version of "Xanadu" a few months ago when my girlfriend at the time NetFlixed it (she had seen it countless times). Since I didn't go in expecting much, I wasn't disappointed. Like you said, the songs in the movie were catchy for the most part (some of which I already knew from hearing them on the radio).

By the way BeckEye, I think you might appreciate my poll for this week.
Claire said…
I would totally see that, I really like ELO (and "Strange Magic" is one of my favorite songs).
I'll be guid-ing you

Gawd, now that song is stuck in my head! I've never seen the film though, never saw the point, but damn if the AM-only radio in the van didn't play that song on every other station back in 1980.
Red said…
I never saw the movie, but the show sounds like fun.

And the DN clip is hilarious...ish.
Dale said…
The show was hilarious and I'm glad you made it (nearly) in time. The performers were totally game and what they did on that little stage (and roller skates) was pretty hilarious.

And it had Jackie Hoffman who is fun to watch in anything. Lots of fun, thanks Beckeye.
Cup said…
I've never seen Xanadu.

Tony Roberts was in a lot of Woody Allen movies during the 1970s and 1980s.. He usually played Woody's goodlooking best bud.
chelene said…
We've already agreed to disagree but the memory of Cheyenne's arms & thighs will still be keeping me warm this winter...and that makes everything else bearable!
Travis Cody said…
It was a goofy movie, but I like Olivia and Jeff Lynn so I give a thumbs up to the soundtrack.
Anonymous said…
Hey - no dissin' on Michael Beck! We went to the same college. He went there quite a while before me, but we had the same theatre professor. Lance would get quite upset if anyone mentioned Xanadu because he said that it really hurt Michael's career. We had a big theatre department reunion when I was a freshman, and I was so hoping to meet him. He was a no show, but I did get to meet Alan Hunter, one of the original Mtv veejays.

Radar from MASH also went to my college, but our professor supposedly told him that he had no talent and to just give up acting.
Anonymous said…
I'm not sold on those cheesy 80s throw back movies. I saw We Will Rock You - a Queen-esque stage musical and was thoroughly unimpressed. I believe dale also saw it and was equally unimpressed.

Dale, remember Bohemian Crapsody? Was it better?

BeckEye, and pictures of this meetup
Moxie said…
When I read about the show going to Broadway I signed up for the Xanadu newsletter. I was JUST reading the current one about the Tonys and thought "I wonder if Beckeye saw this." And then I go to your blog and find this gem!

I am so jealous that you saw it but I know I'll be out there soon enough - hopefully on my company's $$ - and maybe I can drag you off to see it again with me. Come take my hand, you should know me, I've always posted in your comments...you know I will write nice things about you...I'll write very nice things...
katrocket said…
Nevermind Xanadu - you got to meet Dale!!!!!!
Dale said…
GT - Xanadu was Pulitzer Prize material compared to We Will Take Your Money and Pretend Freddy Isn't Still Crying Over This Somewhere Rhapsody!

Katrocket - move to NY and we can meet too! :-)
katrocket said…
dale! What do you mean "move to NY"???? Don't you live in Toronto? I thought we were compadres!

Oh man - shattered dreams.
X. Dell said…
Xanadu was on cable here last year. I tried watching it, but couldn't. It wasn't just a critically bashed movie. It was a critically bashable movie.

That said, anything would have been an improvement. So, I'm glad you and the others had fun.