Xanadu/book by Douglas Carter Beane/music & lyrics by Jeff Lynne & John Farrar/directed by Hallie Baran/Doma Theatre @ the Met/through October 7
Regardless of what you think or say about Olivia Newton-John and the 1980 film Xanadu, it is cute, fun and the music gave her a barrel of hit tunes in the 80s. Based on the earlier 1947 Rita Hayworth charmer Down to Earth, the sequel to Here Comes Mr. Jordan, it's a fantasy of love for a muse and the earthling she is assigned to help. In 2007 it was made into a Broadway show starring Cheyenne Jackson and won an Outer Critic's Circle Award for Best Musical, not bad for a silly little vehicle meant merely for a few smiles and heart-tugs. Now at Doma Theatre, the current production of Xanadu is not quite up to their Jekyll & Hyde, but satisfying nonetheless, and certainly with enough colorfully entertaining qualities to make it worth your while as a respite from the end of summer heat.
Set in Venice, California, street mural artist Sonny Malone (Matt O'Neill) has a dream to open a roller disco, in which he may bring all the arts together under one roof, including live performance, theatre, athletics and art. Frustrated with his lack of success, he is about to commit suicide when an angel/muse Clio comes down in the guise of an eye-catching Australian called Kira (LovLee Carroll) to guide him on his path to glory. According to the rules of the gods, Clio must not fall in love, just assist, but evil sisters Melpomene (Medusa), played by Veronica Scheyving and Calliope (Aphrodite), played by Brittany Rodin, out of jealousy, put a curse on Clio, making her fall head over heels for Sonny. It's a clash between heaven and earth with the threat of banishment to hell, but all played out in a campy fun style with a chorus of heavenly sisters - two in drag: Thalia, played by Bradley Sattler and Terpsicore, played by Alan Lee, who also play a myriad of other roles both human and mythological. Making it all ultimately plausible and enjoyable are the musical numbers, well choreographed by Angela Todaro. Who can resist "Magic", "Evil Woman", "Strange Music", "All Over the World" or "Have You Never Been Mellow", all such mega-hits for Olivia!
Under Hallie Baran's skilled hand, the cast is game and fun to watch. Especially outstanding are David Michael Trevino as Danny Maguire/Zeus and Scheyving so over-the-top wicked as Melpomene/Medusa. Sattler and Lee as the drag sisters Thalia and Terpsicore are delightfully agile and physically dextrous in a variety of roles. Carroll is sweet and most effective as Clio and particularly Kitty. Her Kira is less exciting, as she needs a better accent and to create more passion for the character. As is, she's going through the motions. O'Neill as Sonny is appropriately nerdy/dumb with a fine voice, but does not make an alluring leading man. It's difficult overall to really accept their love for one another. Praise as well to Rodin as the sarcastic Calliope, and to other chorus members Taji Coleman, Lindsay Zana, Allyson Blackstone and Morgan Gallant. Amanda Lawson's basic scenic design with the orchestra above (dressed as angels) the rink-like stage floor works effectively and Michael Mullen's costumes are bright and pretty.
Xanadu is a whimsical, light piece of froth which is meant to be enjoyed like the cotton candy over glow sticks handed out in the lobby. Go, if for no other reason than to hear once more the delicious score by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar.