BWW Reviews: XANADU at Village Sparkles With 80's Kitsch

Sometimes goofy is all you really need. Sure, it's nice to have a deeply heartfelt and affecting show but sometimes you just want candy. Well look no further as Village has taken the candy coated no brainer that is "Xanadu" and amped the joy and humor up to 11. And while yes, the performances are all top notch, the real joy of the production comes from the obvious fun the cast is having with the material (and I don't just mean those skimpy togas).

I know, another movie turned musical. But what writers Douglas Carter Beane, Jeff Lynne and John Farrar have done is taken this overblown bit of 80's fluff and pointed its ridiculous sense back upon itself. So it's the same story as before. Sonny (Dane Stokinger) is a struggling artist with a dream but not much common sense. So ancient Greek muse Clio (Jessica Skerritt) comes down from Mt. Olympus to inspire him by disguising herself as roller skating babe Kira. And the two of them approach former dreamer Danny (Jeff Steitzer) to reopen his club so they can make it totally rad. But Clio's sisters Melpomene and Calliope (Lisa Estridge and Christine Riippi) are jealous of Clio's attentions from Zeus and hatch a plan to make Clio fall in love with Sonny, thereby violating Zeus' laws against falling for mortals and thus sentencing her to death. Just a cute little prank right?

Even as simplistic and silly as the story already sounds, the show turns up the silly even more. The muses are completely over the top commenting on their own schemes and actions. Clio is a loving send up of the campy performance of Olivia Newton-John from the movie. And Sonny is an idiot; a lovable idiot but an idiot nonetheless. And director David Ira Goldstein has taken this romp and even introduced a few fun elements of his own making this just oodles of fun!

But even a fun script needs the right cast and Goldstein has assembled the RIGHT cast. We all know Skerritt can sing. It's just one of those givens of the universe. But her comedic chops shine in this role as she skates through the dreamy wistfulness of Clio. Stokinger also has one of those powerhouse voices but honestly I don't think I've heard him better. His range and strength in his songs (especially in "Don't Walk Away") rival any rendition of these pop hits. And his adorable lunkhead of an artist wins over your heart from the get go and then he carries you in the palm of his hand for the rest of the show. Estridge and Riippi take this comedy duo to the levels of Lucy and Ethel and infuse them with tons of attitude and a hint of venom. Steitzer could not be funnier in the role and his alternate role near the end is one that has to be seen to be believed. And I must, I repeat MUST mention the exceptional ensemble cast. Michael Feldman, Richard Peacock, Jessica Low and Taylor Niemeyer round out the antics on stage brilliantly each with multiple hilarious roles. From sister muses to sirens to mythological creatures (love that centaur) the four of them only add to the glee that is this production. And all of them manage all this wonderfulness while on roller skates (OK, not the whole time but it's still impressive).

With Goldstein's direction combined with this cast combined with stunning choreography from Kathryn Van meter, a gorgeous set from Bill Forrester, outstanding costumes from Karen Ann Ledger and amazing music direction from Tim Symonds you might well think you've been transported to the home of the Gods. At least the Gods of Musical Comedy. To be honest I was kind of luke warm on seeing this again. I saw the tour at the Paramount and was resigned to an evening of "this should be cute". But the Village production skates right past the touring production with its joy, investment and heart.

"Xanadu" performs at Village Theatre in Issaquah through October 20th and then moves over to their Everett location from October 25th through November 17th. For tickets or information contact the Issaquah box office at 425-392-2292 or the Everett box office at 425-257-8600 or visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.

Photo credit: Mark Kitaoka

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From This Author Jay Irwin

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