Review: ATC's 'Xanadu' camps it up for unbridled fun

2013-12-08T00:00:00Z 2013-12-09T12:24:16Z Review: ATC's 'Xanadu' camps it up for unbridled funBy Kathleen Allen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

My face hurts.

Yes, I know: It’s killing you.

But that’s not where this is going, though the bad joke would find itself right at home in Arizona Theatre Company’s production of the musical “Xanadu,” which opened Friday.

The face hurts because, from the moment this blissfully ridiculous musical based on the miserable 1980 movie opens, it is pure fun. Silly. Corny. Hilarious.

ATC is not offering a money-back guarantee that you’ll fall in love with this production, but it might as well.

The cast bounces with energy. Director David Ira Goldstein shows no restraint in goofing on this goof of the very goofy movie. The result is unbridled laughter, giddy, shameless joy.

“Xanadu” harkens back to 1980, when mullets were cool, disco was hot, and the music — or at least this music — was Olivia Newton John’s signature sound. Songs popular back then, such as “Magic” and, yes, “Xanadu” are woven throughout the play. Not well, mind you, but that’s part of the pointlessness of it all.

The story borrows — sort of — from Greek mythology. A muse, Clio, comes down to Earth from Mount Olympus to help a young man, Sonny, realize his potential as an artist — or, as it turns out, the creator of a roller disco. She’s in disguise — she calls herself Kira — is on roller skates and adopts an Australian accent. Her sisters come along for the ride, and a couple of evil-minded ones (hence the song “Evil Woman”) interfere and cause Kira and Sonny to fall in love, which the muse’s father, Zeus, strictly forbids. Kira’s doomed. Or is she?

The ’80s aren’t known for an artistic renaissance. “Creativity will remain stymied for decades,” Zeus declares at one point. “The theater? They’ll just take some stinkeroo movie or some songwriter’s catalog, throw it onstage and call it a show.”

“Xanadu” has no problem mocking itself, theater snobs, the music, the story, artists — it is a delicious feast of mockery, none of it mean-spirited and all of it funny.

This play would likely be a hoot with a so-so cast.

Goldstein, however, has gathered a terrific one.

Jessica Skerritt’s impeccable timing is matched by her beautiful voice and impressive roller-skating chops in her role as Kira/Clio.

The dimwitted Sonny is given an earnest ’80s vibe by Dane Stokinger. He delivers lines like “don’t harsh my mellow” with such sincerity it’s almost sinful. He also packs some impressive pipes.

One of the evil sisters, Calliope, is played by tall, comically gifted Christine Riippi. We dare you to not just lose it when she’s on stage.

Jeff Steitzer, a veteran of ATC’s stage, gives a new definition of god with his turn as Zeus. And he is priceless as a greedy businessman who decides to let Sonny convert his empty theater into a roller disco — if Sonny can manage that in a couple of hours.

The dancers — especially Richard Peacock and Michael Feldman — were sublime. They also don short, flowy chitons in their roles as a couple of the muses. Ya gotta love it.

There were so many little gems in this musical — most would be unfair to give away as they are integral components of the surprise elements that make this piece so much fun. But know this: There will be balloons, disco balls, black lights and the Starship Enterprise.

Also know this: If you skip this play thinking it’s a remake of a lousy movie (which it is) and nothing else (it is much more), you will be denying yourself some fine acting, great singing, gorgeous dancing and a completely gleeful time . The gods would approve and your face will thank you.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@azstarnet.com or 573-4128.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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