Regional Reviews: Seattle
The Gods Have Smiled on Xanadu at Village Theatre
Also see David's review of Les Misérables
Douglas Carter Beane's witty and not too tongue in cheek salute to the '80s roller-disco Olivia Newton-John vehicle has a sands through the hourglass wisp of a plot about Sonny, a chalk artist and would-be entrepreneur who falls for a muse in disguise named Clio (but posing as the earthbound Kira) whose witchy sisters Melpomene and Calliope scheme to make their sis fall right back, which is against the laws of Mt. Olympus. Add Clio's past romance, one-time club owner turned grumpy old businessman Danny, who ends up supporting the pair, plus a gaggle of other demi-goddesses (two of them played by men), some exuberant choreography by Kathryn Van Meter, the pop-hit laden tuneful score by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, a sleek set by Bill Forrester, and dazzling glitzy costumes by Karen Ann Ledger, and you have a two-hour romp that glides by in what feels like two minutes.
The small in number but hugely talented cast of Xanadu is headed by real-life spouses Dane Stokinger and Jessica Skerritt, at last paired as blissfully onstage as in life. Stokinger is adorably dorky and vocally velveteen as simpleminded skater/artist Danny, and Skerritt enchants with her guileless goofery and sells the Newton-John pop hits ("Magic", "Have You Never Been Mellow?" and the title tune) with such passion and commitment you'd swear she was singing Sondheim.
Returning to Seattle after long stints in New York and Chicago, vivacious vocalist and comedienne Lisa Estridge dishes up delight as wily Melpomene, and Christine Riippi as her sibling cohort Calliope rises to new comedic prominence in her first Village mainstage role. Together, the diminutive Estridge and lanky Riippi have great guffaw generating energy, and rock their big duet to "Evil Woman." And amidst all this goodness, Seattle theatre legend Jeff Steitzer steals a great big hunk of the show. Always a swell character actor (and here playing dual roles as Danny and the granddaddy of the gods, Zeus), Steitzer is here a helluva song and dance man, notably paired with Skerritt in the charming "Whenever You're Away From Me." And the demi-goddess sisters have the good fortune to be embodied by the triple threat talents of ensemble cast members Michael Feldman, Richard Peacock, Jessica Low and Taylor Niemeyer, with Feldman and Peacock preening with a free flamboyance and fearlessness that is heartening to watch.
Like the ribbon on the top of the package, musical director Tim Symonds and his small band make sweet sounds to support the vocals. Xanadu may never be art, but what it is, and especially so at Village Theatre, is a cotton-candy dream of an entertainment.
Xanadu runs at Village Theatre in Issaquah through October 20th, moving to Everett Performing Arts Center 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.
- David Edward Hughes