July 11, 2007 / 7:41 PM / 10 years ago

Movie flop Xanadu finds better reviews on Broadway stage

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Xanadu was a box office flop blamed by some critics for turning Hollywood off musicals for more than a decade, but the 1980 film has found a new home and better reviews on Broadway.

The film was so bad that it is credited with ending the movie career of Australian singer Olivia Newton-John and inspiring the creation of the Golden Raspberry Awards that lampoon Hollywood annually on the eve of the Oscars. It was also the last feature film for entertainer Gene Kelly.

The soundtrack, however, hit the U.S. and British top five and produced two No. 1 singles -- "Magic" in the United States and "Xanadu" in Britain -- enough to spark a stage adaptation of the story of nine ancient Greek muses who come to earth to inspire a roller disco creation.

"Can a musical be simultaneously indefensible and irresistible? Why yes it can. Witness 'Xanadu,' the outlandishly enjoyable stage spoof of the outrageously bad movie," The New York Times theater review read on Wednesday.

"At least 'Xanadu' is in on the joke. The show's winking attitude toward its own aesthetic abjectness can be summed up thus: If you can't beat 'em, slap on some roller skates and join 'em," wrote Times critic Charles Isherwood.

The show opened on Tuesday after a delay of a couple of weeks after the original male lead, James Carpinello, broke his ankle during roller skating rehearsal and had to be replaced.

It follows several recent stage adaptations of movies that include 1978s Grease, playing in London's West End and due to start on Broadway this month, 2001s Legally Blonde, playing on Broadway, and 1987s Dirty Dancing, playing in the West End.

Not everyone warmed to Xanadu with New York Post critic Clive Barnes describing it as "an absolutely ghastly show," while the Hollywood Reporter dubbed it a "slipshod enterprise, which belong more in a fringe festival than on Broadway."

"It quickly proves wearisome in its one-note camp attitude," wrote Frank Scheck of the Hollywood Reporter. "Xanadu should have stayed in the DVD bargain bin."

Yet Joe Dzienmianowicz, of the Daily News, said the show was "eye and ear candy that's delightfully inspiring."

"Xanadu is 90 minutes of souped-up silliness and broad comedy that one character actually likens to 'children's theater for 40-year-old gay people'," he wrote. "If you need a cure for the summertime blues or just like the idea of being in stitches ... Xanadu will do the trick."

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