Theatre Review by Matthew Murray - July 10, 2007
Xanadu Book by Douglas Carter Beane. Music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar. Based on the Unviersal Pictures Film Screenplay by Richard Danus and Marc Rubel. Directed by Christopher Ashley. Choreographed by Dan Knechtges. Music Direction and Arrangements by Eric Stern. Scenic design by David Gallo. Lighting design by Howell Binkley. Costume design bt David Zinn. Sound design by T. Richard Fitzgerald, Carl Casella. Projection design by Zachary Borovay. Wig and hair design by Charles G. Laponte. Cast: Kerry Butler, Cheyenne Jackson, and Tony Roberts. Also starring Jackie Hoffman, Mary Testa, with Curtis Holbrook, Anika Larsen, Kenita Miller, Marty Thomas, André Ward.
Luckily, the show compensates with considerably more talent than it needs, in every department. Dan Knechtges's choreography blends athleticism with camp to surprisingly potent results that capture all the rah-rah enthusiasm one might expect of gymnasts at Mt. Olympus High School. Designers David Gallo (sets), Howell Binkley (lights), and David Zinn (costumes) help carry out that aesthetic, helping the production find a keen balance between seriousness and parody that provide the look and feel it needs without going completely overboard. A gathering of Medusa, a centaur, and a cyclops singing "Have You Never Been Mellow?" in full Clash of the Titans garb is cutting it close, though.
The stage is populated with even crazier personages, especially in shameless scene-stealers Jackie Hoffman and Mary Testa, who make a series of uproarious appearances as two ne'er-do-well muses who want only to thwart their sister Kira in her earthly pursuits. It's nice that their oversized comic faces, voices, and mannerisms for once fit into their surroundings instead of jutting away from them. Curtis Holbrook is an electric presence in the few featured dance spots he's been granted (including an especially charming turn as a young Danny, opposite both Roberts and Butler). The rest of the cast, which includes Anika Larsen, Kenita Miller, André Ward, and stunt skater Marty Thomas can't supply all of the spectacle the film's enormous dancing corps did, but is so full of spirit and personality you don't much mind.
Such feelings are easily understandable. It often seems as though the show will implode long before the integral paper streamers and cavalcades of mirrored balls have come and gone, but through sheer force of will the musical becomes what the movie couldn't: a delightful, smile-forcing summer night out. It's anyone's guess what will happen in August, when the Fringe Festival unleashes on New York its annual bevy of musicals just like this one. But for now, strap on your skates and get rolling - Xanadu has wild entertainment to spare for as long as it's here.