The great thing about the stage musical of Xanadu is that the premise alone is so outrageous, the audience does a lot of the heavy lifting itself. Based on the 1980 movie musical that, by consensus, was the death knell of disco, it keeps all the ridiculous tropes in place: the ancient Greek muse Clio (Britanny Danielle), who’s inexplicably Australian; the sincerity in making a roller disco a symbol of artistic achievement; a brain-dead, cut-offs-wearing surfer (Sean McGee, who has the muscular legs more of a soccer player); and, of course, the songs from ELO’s Jeff Lynne and John Farrar. The jokes practically write themselves.
Only they don’t. Author Douglas Carter Beane crafts a cascade of hilarious one-liners, poking fun at everything from Lloyd Webber to the artistic vacuum of the Reagan era to Scientology. It’s almost fool-proof.
Almost. Technical glitches on opening night were distracting, and the insertion of an intermission in what is essentially a peppy, 90-minute romp doesn’t do anybody a favor, save the concessionaire. But like Mamma Mia, the energy and immense, silly fun of the show wins out.
Adorable Sean McGee has the Keanu Reeves vacuousness down pat, and kudos to Danielle for dancing and singing her way through the show on roller skates. But most of the scenes are stolen by the supporting cast, especially Stacia Malone as a wacky Calliope, rolling her eyes under a nest of unruly hair like Phyllis Diller in her prime. And gags — including Thomas Christopher Renner as a centaur and
Darius-Anthony Robinson’s inimitable way with sassy, bitch-slapping dialogue — throw a punch just when you need them to.
And let’s not forget the songs. Yes, the script has fun skewering that defining musical style, but it comes from a place of love. Just try to leave the theater without humming the title number. Go ahead. I dare you.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
Addison Theatre Centre, 15650 Addison Road. Through Aug. 18. A special “LGBT Night” on Aug. 7 comes with a pre-show reception and discounted ticket. WaterTowerTheatre.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 2, 2013.