Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Also see John's review of The Lion King
The year is 1980 and the setting is Venice Beach, California. A Greek muse named Clio descends from Mt. Olympus on a quest to inspire struggling artist Sonny Malone. Clio, disguised as roller-skate clad Australian girl named Kira, prompts Sonny to open a center for the arts in the form of a roller disco. Sonny finds just the place with a dilapidated club formerly known as Xanadu. Before long, Clio's jealous sister muses conspire to cast a spell on her so that she falls in love with Sonny. Knowing full well that falling in love with a mortal is forbidden to her, Clio/Kira risks eternal banishment to the underworld by continuing her relationship with Sonny. As her past unfolds it would appear it is not the first time Clio has flirted with Cupid's arrow.
This production of Xanadu directed by Patrick Fitzwater is a veritable comedic free-for-all. It openly spoofs the film version (Xanadu actually won the first Razzie for Worst Director) and the stars in it. Cut to Kira's (Lindsey Forgey) intentionally bad Australian accent as a tribute to Olivia Newton John. Forgey has great energy and a sense of fun with the role. Rick Pena, as aspiring artist Sonny, manages a kind of goofy, California skateboarder take on the role that works well. Then there is Danny (Larry Buzzeo) toting an umbrella and whistling the melody to "Singin' In The Rain" in one of his entrances as a way of reminding us that Gene Kelly played the role in the movie.
Renata Eastlick has a commanding presence as Melpomene, Clio's fellow muse and nemesis. She comes off as a lovely but wicked villainous, with a quick tongue and a sense of humor. Connor Walton, who plays the muse Thalia, is the best dancer in the cast. He does a lovely job in a tap number sung by Buzzeo, dressed as a man. The fact that he and one other male portray female muses is humorous for about 30 seconds. After that it becomes a distraction, especially because one's eye is continually pulled to Walton because his dancing is the strongest.
The aim of Xanadu is unabashedly over the top. Legwarmers, headbands and roller skates abound. There is an odd reference to the Wizard of Oz when Sonny says "people come and go so quickly here," and one of the actresses even chides another for chewing (biting on) the scenery. It may sum it up best when a line reads that the show is akin to children's theatre for 40 year-old gay men.
This production spends too much time making fun of everything and everyone, however, to ever really take root. What they seem to have forgotten is that the soundtrack for the film was a commercial success and contained five Top 20 singles: "Magic," "Suddenly," "Xanadu," "All Over The World" and "I'm Alive." So, when they imbue each song with trite movement and phrasing meant to be campy, they kill every last bit of sincerity. And let's face itwithout these songs having gained fame, the film would never have garnered the kind of cult following that prompted the writing of the musical.
If camp is all you are after, then this production of Xanadu fits the bill, but if you are looking for anything more, you may be disappointed.
Slow Burn Theatre's production of Xanadu the Musical appeared through July 1, 2012, at the West Boca Performing Arts Center on the campus of West Boca High, 12811 West Glades Rd. (3.5 miles west of 441). The Slow Burn Theatre Company is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) professional theatre company hiring local actors and actresses. They are committed to bringing high-quality contemporary musical theatre to South Florida, and proving that modern Broadway can rock. The company offers technical internships to local students, providing them with professional experience. For more information on Slow Burn you may contact them by phone at 866-811-4111 or line at www.slowburntheatre.com.