Those of us old enough remember the big musical that arrived in theaters in 1980 featuring Olivia Newton John, screen legend Gene Kelly and music by the Electric Light Orchestra, (ELO). With the success of “Grease” years before, it seemed destiny that another musical film featuring Newton John would be a shoe in. While “Xanadu” had all the right people involved, it was missing a plot or at least a cohesive storyline. The movie just barely paid the bills during its initial run. Ironically though, the soundtrack was hugely successful with six hits, meaning that more people are familiar with the music from the movie than the movie itself.
So, when it was announced that a new Broadway musical was being created based on “Xanadu,” there was much skepticism. Who would want to do a show based on a huge flop? Douglas Carter Beane. He took this failed movie and let it inspire him to create a “bad” stage show on purpose. The result is one crazy and enjoyable ride. Characters run up and down the aisles, there is audience participation in performing a love spell, it is chock full of 80’s references and there is dance party at the end.
Village Theatre is currently presenting “Xanadu” at the Everett Performing Arts Center inspiring ticket holders to arrive in full 80’s garb. Jessica Skerritt plays Australian-speaking, rolling skating Kira, a Greek muse with pink leg warmers. She and her sisters, all with un-pronounceable names, have arrived to Los Angeles to help inspire Sonny Malone (Dane Stokinger), a chalk artist with dreams of opening up a roller disco, (to which Kira says, “How timeless!”), but must contend with Danny (Jeff Steitzer), a bitter old man who owns the perfect building for such a project, but intends to knock it down.
“Xanadu” is a silly production from beginning to end in just about every way possible. In order to have some male voices in the chorus, two of the muses are portrayed by men without hiding the fact that they are men. While the female muses all have wild wigs, the men essentially look like they wandered into the wrong show. One (Michael Feldman) is somewhat masculine while the other (Richard Peacock) is on the more on the feminine side, suggesting that the character is gay, an over-wrought cliché of modern stage musicals. The “joke” is one note and gets old quickly. However, after a few minutes, all the muses meld together speaking in unison and you forget all about it.
Skerrit with her terrible Australian accent and the goofy Stokinger make a great comedic pair, not only on stage, but off as well as they are married in real life. Not every line in the show is a winner, but there is enough charm between the two of them to keep the show together.
The villain in this story is short Melpomene (Lisa Estridge), one of Kira’s sisters. Her accomplice is another sister, the tall Calliope (Christine Riipi). Together the pair almost steals the show. This is Riipi’s first production with Village Theatre and it won’t be the last. Calliope is the least graceful of the sisters and being a daughter of Zeus, you wouldn’t think that she would need glasses. In turn, Estridge is sassy with much attitude. She is awesome; however, sometimes her “attitude” gets in the way of projecting her lines clearly. Some of her best lines were lost on the audience simply because they were not understandable. The best song in the production, “Evil Woman,” belongs to them.
Last but not least, the last two sisters are played by Jessica Low and Taylor Niemeyer.
“Xanadu” is directed by David Ira Goldstein, music directed by Tim Symons and choreographed by Kathryn Van Meter. Songs included in the show include: “I’m Alive,” “Magic,” “Suddenly,” “Strange Magic,” “All Over the World,” “Don’t Walk Away” and even “Have You Never Been Mellow” which is surprisingly beautiful. The show continues through November 17 with performances at 7:30 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 7:00 p.m. on Sundays. There are also 2:00 p.m. matinees on both Saturdays and Sundays as well.
The Everett Performing Arts Center is located at 2710 Wetmore Avenue, Everett, 98201. Tickets may be purchased online or calling 425.257.8600.