NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - "The theater? They'll just
take some stinkeroo movie ... throw it on a stage, and call it
I wish I could take credit for that astute bit of analysis
when it comes to "Xanadu," the new Broadway musical adaptation
of the cult favorite 1980 stinkeroo film, but it comes directly
from the show itself. Its author, Tony-nominated playwright
Douglas Carter Beane ("The Little Dog Laughed"), clearly wants
to head off at the pass the inevitable criticism. No doubt
that's why a character also declares at one point: "This is
like children's theater for 40-year-old gay people!"
Unfortunately, such self-consciousness is not likely to
increase your enjoyment of this slipshod enterprise, which
belongs more in a fringe festival than on Broadway. Despite
running a mere 90 minutes, it quickly proves wearisome in its
one-note camp attitude.
You might recall the plot of the film, if post-traumatic
stress hasn't erased it. It has to do with the efforts of a
beautiful muse from ancient Greece (Kerry Butler, in the role
of Kira, originally played by Olivia Newton-John) to inspire
Sonny (Cheyenne Jackson), a down-on-his-luck artist. Her
appearance prompts him to try to restore an old, abandoned
theater named Xanadu and convert it to a roller disco.
Fortunately for Sonny, the building's greedy businessman
owner (Tony Roberts) has a weak spot: He had an encounter with
the same gorgeous muse many years earlier.
The show, like the original film, features a musical score
by Jeff Lynne (Electric Light Orchestra) and John Farrar, with
the amusing addition of Newton-John hits like "Have You Never
Although the satirical book has its flashes of wit, it
doesn't manage to transform the horrific source material into
anything theatrically viable, at least not in a way that hasn't
already been done countless times before. (At one point,
there's an insulting reference to Andrew Lloyd Webber, but
musicals in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.)
The music, featuring such familiar numbers as "Evil Woman,"
"Party All Over the World," "I'm Alive" and the title song,
certainly demonstrates Lynne's trademark pop tunefulness.
Unfortunately, it isn't well served here by the tinny
arrangements and lackluster vocals.
Butler, wearing the character's trademark leg warmers, is
certainly perky enough, even if she never seems quite
comfortable on her roller skates. Jackson, a last-minute
replacement for original star James Carpinello (he had a
skating malfunction), well displays his hunky attributes in
tight shorts and tank tops. Veteran performer Roberts handles
his rather humiliating chores with the grace and good humor of
a true professional, and Jackie Hoffman and Mary Testa deliver
some hilarious moments as Kira's fellow muses.
But for all their efforts and those of director Christopher
Ashley, who has staged the proceedings with a suitably hokey
silliness, "Xanadu" should have stayed in the DVD bargain bin.
Clio/Kira: Kerry Butler
Sonny: Cheyenne Jackson
Danny/Zeus: Tony Roberts
Calliope/Aphrodite: Jackie Hoffman
Melpomene/Medusa: Mary Testa
Thalia/others: Curtis Holbrook
Euterpe/others: Anika Larsen
Erato/others: Kenita Miller
Terpsichore/others: Andre Ward
Book: Douglas Carter Beane; Music-lyrics: Jeff Lynne, John
Farrar; Director: Christopher Ashley; Choreographer: Dan
Knechtges; Set designer: David Gallo; Lighting designer: Howell
Binkley; Costume designer: David Zinn; Sound designers: T.
Richard Fitzgerald, Carl Casella.