Thursday, August 2, 2007


It was a delight to see the new Broadway musical called XANADU at the Helen Hayes Theatre (240 W. 44th St) earlier this evening. The show is a musical comedy/parody of the 1980 cult, roller skate-disco-themed movie of the same name starring Olivia Newton-John. With the book written by Douglas Bean Carter, Xanadu tells of the love between a goddess (played by the wonderful KERRY BUTLER) and the mortal she inspires (CHEYENNE JACKSON). In a line from the show: "This is like children's theater for 40-year-old gay people!"Even though I never saw the movie, it was not difficult to come on board with the tone of the show from the start. All the cast members were great and funny, but the comedic talent of MARY TESTA and JACKIE HOFFMAN who played the most prominent sisters of Butler's character, were a big hit with the audience. What I didn't get though was having a few dozen audience members on stage, as in a couple of other musicals I saw recently.

The reviews:

New York Times - "Can a musical be simultaneously indefensible and irresistible? Why, yes it can. Witness “Xanadu,” the outlandishly enjoyable stage spoof of the outrageously bad movie from 1980 about a painter and his muse who find love at a roller disco in Los Angeles."

Newsday - "The 90-minute show, which kicked off the new season last night at the Helen Hayes Theatre, is a grand little piece of smart dumb fun."

Post - "Xanadont"

Variety - "Fresh off "The Little Dog Laughed," Douglas Carter Beane has taken the unpromising clay of Richard Danus and Marc Rubel's screenplay and molded it not only into an engagingly goofy spoof of the film itself but also a witty takedown of the Broadway creative climate. Sure, the book scenes occasionally stall, but what looked on paper to be one-note sketch fodder turns out to be an unexpectedly sustained and refreshingly unassuming crowd-pleaser."

Daily News - "Kerry Butler, so good in "Hairspray" and less so in "Little Shop of Horrors," is simply out of this world as Kira. She has gorgeous pipes, great comic flair and puts on a fab faux Aussie accent that could make dingoes howl for more."

NY1 - "And while it's awfully light fare for Broadway, considering the amount of laughs you get per dollar spent, it's a comedy bargain."

Associated Press - ""Xanadu," the jaw-droppingly awful 1980 film that sank Olivia Newton-John's movie career yet couldn't kill roller disco, has been turned into a fast, funny little stage musical."

Newark Star-Ledger - "Sure, "Xanadu" makes "Mamma Mia" look like Shakespeare, but there's strange magic in such madness."

Sun - "Most of the cast members — although, sadly, not Mr. Roberts — spend a decent portion of the show whizzing around the tiny stage in roller skates. (At a recent performance, nearly one-third of the tiny cast was on the injured list.) Making this even riskier is the presence of a few dozen audience members sprinkled around the stage, along with musical director Eric Stern and his tiny but potent orchestra, which does a remarkable job replicating E.L.O.'s synth-drenched sound with just four musicians."

Hollywood Reporter - "Unfortunately, such self-consciousness is not likely to increase your enjoyment of this slipshod enterprise, which belongs more in a fringe festival than on Broadway. Despite running a mere 90 minutes, it quickly proves wearisome in its one-note camp attitude."

Globe and Mail - "The Tony Awards are still 11 months away, but already we can declare that the hands-down winner of the Truth in Advertising trophy is the fizzy new musical which opened last night at the Helen Hayes Theatre heralded by this marketing tagline: "Xanadu. On Broadway. Seriously." For in those four words can be found the sum of this exercise in summer camp: its self-conscious if bold confidence, its wispy tongue-in-cheek charm, the unlikely nature of its achievement, and the theatre-going public's generally incredulous response to the concept."

amNewYork video review - "Very good for the summer in a happy mindless way."

New York magazine reader review - "If, like us, you see it while messed up, the production is beyond marvelous - just make sure you're not seated on the stage; you'll miss some nifty visual effects. And resist the urge to stand up and dance, as you'll piss off the folks behind you. My buddy was having such a good time that she kept flying the devil horn salute and I had to hold her arms down a few times."

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