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Review: XANADU presented by The Chicken Coop at Champ's Rollerdome

Running every evening Now - April 17th

Review: XANADU presented by The Chicken Coop at Champ's Rollerdome When you hear the word Xanadu, you can't help but snicker. When you hear that Xanadu is a musical, your jaw hits the floor. The film Xanadu is infamous for its negative reviews after the release in 1980, but over the years it has earned a "guilty pleasure" cult classic status. Fast forward to 2007, and Xanadu became a Broadway musical... and a surprise success.

Using music from the film and a tongue in cheek approach to the concept, Xanadu on stage became a full-fledged parody of itself. The show had a respectable Broadway run (512 performances) and a successful national tour. Since then it's been a somewhat popular staple in community and regional theaters for those who dare to take on a show that can only be described as a logistical beast.

When artistic director Jason Cooper announced that The Chicken Coop would not only produce the difficult show but also partner with Louisville staple Champ's Roller-dome to stage it, I was instantly intrigued and weary. The notion of using non-traditional performance spaces is always an exciting one, but the "how" in the equation usually stops innovative ideas in their tracks. Staging this show site-specific in a roller-dome is as ambitious an idea as they come.

Let's get something straight: this show is STUPID... and I mean that in the best possible way. Every acting choice, flourish of choreography, and costume design feeds into the campy nature of this show. This show is stupid in the smartest way possible. The show is self-described as "Children's Theatre for Gay Forty Year Olds" and it doesn't get any clearer than that. While the show was rough around the edges and improvements could be made, Jason Cooper (who served as director of the show) and the cast should be very proud of what they achieved. While sitting in a chair on the skating floor, the audience was treated to 90 straight minutes of pure delight.

The company of the show fully commits to this insanity with flying colors and grandeur. The cast is lead by Kristie Cook Buckley as Clio/Kira and she is absolutely sensational. You may not think to look at it, but this role is a lot. It requires an actress who with a wide vocal range, pure comedic chops, and an almost unbelievable sense of optimism... not to mention it's all done on roller skates. Buckley, who I haven't seen on stage before, rises to the occasion spectacularly. She is matched with Remy Sisk as the dopey artist Sonny who Clio is sent to inspire to open his own roller disco. Sisk, clad in a tank top and short shorts, does a great job finding so much humanity and humor in what could be a bit of a throw-away role. He and Buckley have great chemistry and it's clear they have a lot of trust in one another as they often skate as a pair in the show.

The supporting cast is just as well off with Heidi Gibson Platt and Mandy Kramer as Clio's evil sisters Melpomene and Calliope, respectively. Together they are an absolute joy to watch. Their rapport was so wonderful and every antic was pure comedic gold. Rounding out the leading players is Rusty Henle as Danny, a money hungry real estate mogul who once had art in his heart. Henle does a solid job with the material he's given, often giving the character more agency than he may have in the hands of a less capable actor. The ensemble as a whole is having an absolute blast giving a masterclass in delightful buffoonery, selling this show's special brand of crazy at every turn.

The production design has a very low rent, off-Broadway feel. Outrageous props, cheap costumes, and a sparse set only add to the show's campy charms. As this was opening night, not everything was as perfected as I'm sure it was intended. Some blocking issues, spotty sound, and slight trepidation on skates by some of the cast were present. While these issues can't be overlooked, I will give the benefit of the doubt that these were opening night jitters. The show's lack of polish in some areas doesn't take away from its overall enjoyment . When you boil it down, this show in its immersive setting was a massive and ambitious undertaking. Enough praise cannot be given to Jason Cooper who had a vision and created something while not entirely perfect, is pretty damn special.


Now - April 17th

The Chicken Coop Theatre Company @ Camp's Rollerdome

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From This Author - Taylor Clemons