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Xanadu
Albuquerque Little Theatre

Also see Rob's review of Legally Blonde and Sarah's review of Port Twilight

Xanadu
Michael Isaiah Rascon and Mandy Farmer
The Greek muse Clio (Mandy Farmer) has come down from Mt. Olympus to Venice Beach, California, with the assignment of inspiring the discouraged artist Sonny. She works her artistic magic under two strict rules: She can't let her subjects know she is a muse, and she is not allowed to fall in love with a human. The punishment is eternal banishment to the netherworld.

Arriving in Venice Beach in disguise, she is now Kira, a young woman from Australia. When she comes upon Sonny (Michael Isaiah Rascon), he is getting ready to throw himself off a pier. With very little prodding from Clio-now-Kira, Sonny drops his suicide plans and rededicates himself to his art. While he began as a mural artist, he now decides to spend his creativity on building a disco roller rink.

During the process of encouraging Sonny on this artistic vision, Kira falls in love with him. Her jealous sisters are no help as she falls deeper and deeper into forbidden territory. Sonny teams up with a local real estate mogul, Danny Maguire (Mike Lash), to use an empty warehouse for the disco roller rink. It turns out that the Danny was inspired by Kira the muse—then known as Kitty—decades earlier when he created a big-band era nightclub. The difference, though, is that Kitty didn't fall in love with Danny.

Xanadu the musical is based on a movie starring Olivia Newton John as Kira. The film bombed when it came out in 1980. Over time it became a cult favorite, and in 2007 it was revamped as a stage musical. Xanadu ran 512 performances on Broadway before taking off on a national tour.

Lyrics and music are by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar. Lynne was the brains and talent behind the Electric Light Orchestra, and Farrar was a songwriting force behind Olivia Newton John's success. Aside from "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic," which were Electric Light Orchestra hits, and "Have You Never Been Mellow," which John Farrar wrote for Olivia Newton John, the songs in Xanadu were penned for the film.

The performances are strong throughout. The key roles of as Kira and Sonny are well cast; Both Farmer and Rascon deliver well in both their acting and their singing (Farmer also did a great job a few months ago as Sally Bowles in ALT's production of Cabaret.)

The first half of the show is primarily set-up. The songs are fine, the acting performances and choreography are fine, but things don't really start to rock until after intermission. The second half explodes. Kira has to face Zeus, her enraged father, for her transgression of falling for a human and revealing she's a muse. After plenty of hand-wringing, we get the payoff of seeing the lovers reunited in the middle of a disco roller rink. The spectacle is worth the wait. As well as watching the characters dance on skates, we also get to see a dynamite roller skating dance crew who turn the entire theatre into a disco roller rink, mirror ball and all.

Thanks to directors Henry Avery and Dehron Foster, the entire ensemble is terrific. There are no obvious weak spots in this production. Kudos to the production staff and crew who number more than 30. Standouts are musical direction (HB Williams), lighting (Josh Bien), choreography (Larry Joseph Aguilar) and dance skating (Stephen Maestas).

Xanadu, book by Douglas Carter Beane, music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, is directed by Henry Avery and Dehron Foster. The production runs at the Albuquerque Little Theatre, 224 San Pasquale SW, through April 29. Performances run Friday at 8:00, and Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm. General admission for adults at regular performances is $24 for adults, $21 for seniors (62 and above), $18 for students, and $12 for kids under 13. The show is rated PG, and is not recommended for children under the age of 3.

For reservations, call 242-4750, ex. 2, or purchase at the Theatre's website: albuquerquelittletheatre.org/.


Photo: George Williams

--Rob Spiegel



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