Road Report: Xanadu

I just saw the Broadway version of Xanadu last night.

The show is pure piffle.  That said, there is something Zen-like in the purity of its piffle.

The show adapts the ’80’s movie of the same name, fully acknowledging the awfulness of its source material.  However it uses the plot elements of the movie, the song elements of the movie, and a meta-awareness of our current reaction to elements in the movie — roller disco, Olivia Newton-John, retro pop — for smart camp send-up.  And this really is smart piffle.  The plot concerns an invasion by the 9 muses into Soutehern California to inspire a sidewalk muralist*.  In the process the head muse Clio decides … well it’s too much to go in here, but it all kind of works.

The whole affair is bolstered by perfectly-tuned performances by an amazing ensemble cast.  Cheyenne Jackson is pitch perfect as a vacant-but-inspired beach hunk/artist.  Kelly Butler is savvy and engaging as the head muse — and it is stunning how she can get around in either shoes, two skates or one skate. Mary Testa and Jackie Hoffman are superb as the sister muses who provide both dramatic tension and comic relief.

The very self-aware show at one point refers to itself as “children’s theater for 40 year old gay people.”  It does that very well in a slick, snappy 90 minutes.  However, if one thinks that the theatre should always aspire to higher things, I hear that August: Osage County is absolutely brilliant.

*Nobody I know has remarked on the fact that the leading men of 2 current Broadway musicals (Xanadu, Mary Poppins)are sidewalk chalk muralists who are in love with mystical females. 

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