XANDAU at CenterRep is Spectacularly Outrageous

Left - Right: Catherine Gloria, Maureen McVerry*, Evan Boomer, Brittany Danielle*, Mark Farrell*, Dyan McBride*, Sharon Rietkerk*

XANADU: Musical. Book by Douglas Carter Beane. Music and Lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar. Directed by Jeff Collister. Choreographed by Jennifer Perry. Musical Direction by Brandon Adams. Center REPertory Company, Lesher Theatre, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, CA. 925.943.7469 or www.CenterREP.org. May 18- June 23, 2012

XANDAU at CenterRep is Spectacularly Outrageous

Why would anyone want to invest money in converting, Xanadu, a 1980 stinkeroo movie, into a stage vehicle? I guess because they had a vision that the world was ready for a hilarious spoof of the mythical Greek god Zeus and his seven daughters cavorting in gaudy colorful costumes singing and dancing their hearts out with some of them on roller skates. They were right. Xanadu became the smash hit of the 2007-2008 Broadway season running for over 500 performances winning multiple awards. Now is your chance to be equally entertained at the all-fun, fantastic staging on CenterRep’s Lesher stage. It is a hoot and a holler, extravagant, kaleidoscopic, implausibly outrageous (pick your own adjective), and must-be-seen to be believed West Coast production.

The time is 1980 Venice, California, and sidewalk chalk artist Sonny Malone (Tim Homsley) has hit “artist block” (the equivalent of writer’s block) and cannot go on chalking the mythical goddesses. But wait, the painting comes to life and the Seven Muses are alive and active with the youngest Clio (Brittany Danielle) determined to be Sonny’s artistic Muse. This is verboten by the rules from Zeus on Mount Olympus, but what the heck youth will out and not too bright Sonny needs help. So, Clio, disguises herself as Kira, complete with an Olivia Newton-John Australian accent, roller skates and leg warmers to help hapless Sonny to follow his dream. Would you believe he wants to combine art with athletics and what better way than to create a “roller disco."

Alas, Clio/Kira has two jealous evil sisters, Melpomene (Dyan McBride) and Calliope (Maureen McVerry)) who will have none of this and they belt out the “Evil Woman” ballad that brings the house down. They are going to make Clio/Kira fall in love with Sonny. Enter Danny Maguire (Tom Reardon), a former clarinetist turned development entrepreneur who just happens to have an abandoned space, formerly named Xanadu, perfect for a roller-disco. If Sonny and Clio/Kira can whip the place into shape in one day, generous Danny will give them 25% of the take. Clio/Kira doesn’t think this is very bright but goes along with Sonny’s dreams.

Somewhere in the course of the evening the question arises about what in the name of the gods is Xanadu? One of the muses wails, “It is a gift so grand none of us know what it is!” Conflict arises, since true love never runs true. Did I tell you it is a crime for the Olympian Muses to take mortal form and become artists and a bigger crime if they fall in love with a mortal? Well, you guessed it Clio/Kira and Sonny do the dastardly deed (if falling in love is a dastardly deed) to the music and lyrics of “Suddenly.” You know they are made for each other when Sonny steps out of the telephone booth wearing roller skates. Now, just how did they do that?

What is even more fun, audience favorite Mark Farrell in drag as Thalia (and other roles) appropriately hams it up and steals many of the laughs. Before continuing with this review it is necessary to inform you that all, yes ALL the cast double and triple in other rolls and Dyan McBride gets a big laugh with the throw away line “Calliope would be here with me if we didn’t have to play double roles!” They do it so well and you may never know who is who (whom?) with the non stop action.

Although Brittany Danielle is absolutely charming, brilliant and a damn good skater the supporting cast gets more than their share of accolades as they bounce around the fantastic, outrageous (those adjectives must be used again and again) set (Kelly Tighe) that is a three level marvel with central revolving stage and fireman poles on stage right and left. Those poles get used frequently and poor Maureen McVerry milks her time on the pole for a great laugh every time she uses it. Sharon Rietkerk’s performance as Erato may earn an R rating from the censors if there are any.

The costumes are a drag queen’s dream (Victoria Livingston-Hall). Director Jeff Collister and choreographer Jennifer Perry could be sued for actor abuse (is there such a classification) putting these poor denizens of Mount Olympus through their paces. Everyone is in excellent voice. Brandon Adams and the on-stage band are terrific with the pop-rock score. The plethora of sight gags and double entendre remarks get their just due of laughs.

It truly is an ensemble performance with all parts fitting together like a crazy jigsaw puzzle. The running time of 95 minutes flies by and will leave you asking for more. Nevertheless, you will have to settle for a grand finale (you have never seen a Zeus like this Zeus) with the part of the cast on roller skates while disco balls bathe the stage with flashing lights (Kurt Landisman). This Xanada is a gift of ancient gods.

Kedar K. Adour,MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com