SOUND BITES — HOLIDAY EDITION

Friday our HOLLYWOOD ISSUE comes out, so in anticipation of it, and to keep things season, here’s a rundown of Christmas music features the good (Cee Lo!), the godawful (Travolta!) and the just plain weird (Tracey Thorn).

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta, This Christmas. Friends since summer lovin’ brought them together more than 30 years ago, Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta are, still, hopelessly devoted to each other. They’re as chummy together in the liner pics of their charity Christmas album, where they even share an oversized coffee mug, as they are on these creepy renditions of classics. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is the worst offender; on the traditional-sounding track, they’re dropping each other’s names — he calls her “Liv” (barf) — and making that banter cornier than that “Sir, I Wanna Buy These Shoes For My Dyin’ Mama” song. Travolta’s “oh gosh, I really do have to go” line sounds less like a farewell and more like he’s ready to drop some poops.

It’s hard to even take them serious on “Silent Night,” which isn’t half bad; Olivia’s voice is still pretty and pleasant, and even Travolta doesn’t sound like he’s still wearing Edna Turnblad’s Hairspray muumuu. But a children’s choir — of course! “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” featuring Kenny G for max cheesiness — has Travolta in Elvis mode. The booze really takes over when they get to “I Think You Might Like It,” a rollicking soft-rocker that’s being billed as the sequel to “You’re the One That I Want” from their Grease days. For better or worse, at least it sounds like a Danny and Sandy song. Will you like it? They think so. The album’s an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party full of nostalgia and awesomely bad moments, but it’s hard to tell if they’re in on the joke. They bring in some pretty serious talent: Tony Bennett, James Taylor and Barbra Streisand. Let’s hope Babs has a healthy sense of humor.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Starvoice • 09.23.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAY

Olivia Newton-John turns 63 on Monday. The singer/actress reached queer iconicism as the muse Kira in the roller skating fantasy film Xanadu. She only helped that with her role as Bitsy Mae Harling in the Sordid Lives film and the television series. We think her guest appearances on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List and Glee her well on queerdom’s radar.

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THIS WEEK

Fresh into Libra, the sun and Mercury stimulate friendly conversation but they’re opposite Uranus and squaring Pluto; any dialogue can turn fiercely argumentative or deliciously wicked. Either way, secrets will be revealed!

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LIBRA  Sep 23-Oct 22
Getting older beats the hell out of the alternative. The trick is to celebrate maturity, not to try hiding your age. Staying active and fit is one thing; holding on to your adolescence is another.

SCORPIO  Oct 23-Nov 21
Your energy is high, perhaps hard to control. Worrying about that can turn it into nervous aggravation. Stay focused. Staying where you’re visible will help you stay on purpose.

SAGITTARIUS  Nov 22-Dec 20
If arguments with friends leave you irritated, it’s because they’re right. Be big enough to admit it. You’re in too much demand now to be in a cranky sulk. What you learn can prove helpful at work.

CAPRICORN  Dec 21-Jan 19
Rewards for your accomplishments are more spiritual than remunerative. If that disappoints you, take it in stride. Remember, you’re always being seen and attitude is key to further success.

AQUARIUS  Jan 20-Feb 18
Charm is more persuasive than facts. That doesn’t mean you have to compromise your integrity, but you want to adjust your attitude. Especially with the one you love, remember to be kind.

PISCES  Feb 19-Mar 19
Outstanding debts should wait. Focus on your sex life. What do you really want? Partnered: A long heart-to-heart talk is in order. Single: An adventure can open up amazing new possibilities.

ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Accepting invitations to fun causes as much trouble as refusing them. Adventure and drama are inevitable, so embrace them consciously with eyes open or they will sneak up on you.

TAURUS  Apr 20-May 20
Don’t let work stress you out. Exercise shakes off the tension. Redistributing the workload among your co-workers can help. Staying focused on the goal is important, but don’t obsess on it.

GEMINI  May 21-Jun 20
Your efforts to include friends just annoy them. Let them be the audience when you’re done. If you find a good collaborator, though, it could become more than a working relationship.

CANCER  Jun 21-Jul 22
Make new contacts in your community. You’ll be surprised to discover how well known you are. Those new connections prove helpful in your career. When in doubt, stay close to home.

LEO  Jul 23-Aug 22
Some things need to be said and feathers have to be ruffled. Be tactful, but also be ready to deal with the fact that someone will be upset, and he or she will just have to hear it and adapt.

VIRGO  Aug 23-Sep 22
Be careful whom you contract with in financial undertakings. It could work out brilliantly, but is more likely to be a disaster. Sexual explorations can improve partnerships or help start one.

Jack Fertig can be reached at 415-864-8302 or Starjack.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

The pleasure dome

It may not be stately, but LGA’s goofy ‘Xanadu’ is a great summer camp

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HAVE YOU NEVER BEEN MELLOW | A Muse (Misty Venters) inspires a bubble-brained street artist (Angel Velasco) in the camptastic (and very gay) musical ‘Xanadu.’

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Sonny Malone (Angel Velasco) isn’t the smartest guy in the room — and that’s probably true even when he’s visiting the monkey house at the zoo. He’s the prototypical himbo, the man who’s at his best when he’s just looking pretty and keeping his mouth closed. Girls used to get relegated to such status; now it’s the boys’ turn.

But Sonny does like to create art, and he sees it in chalk drawings on the sidewalk in Venice Beach as well as the opportunity to open a roller disco in 1980. (He doesn’t have much foresight: By 1981, disco — on wheels and not — was dead and would remain that way for 15 years.) That’s when Kira aka Clio (Misty Venters), head Muse (of the Olympus Muses), intervenes. Her job is to inspire humans to create, though she’s forbidden to let them know that’s what she’s there for or create anything herself.

That’s what counts as a plot in Xanadu, the very loose stage adaptation of the disastrous Olivia Newton-John film of 1980 better remembered for its soundtrack than for any recognizable dramatic energy. But playwright Douglas Carter Beane took the loose idea of the movie and molded it — and it was pretty moldy to begin with — into a snarky, ironic period comedy where cut-offs, head bands, knee socks and Converse high-tops are the peak of fashion.

The main problem with Xanadu is, paradoxically, also it’s chief selling-point: Beane’s script. It’s very inside baseball, with lots of kitschy in-jokes about Southern California and gay culture, that simultaneously elevate the humor and weigh it down.

“This is children’s theater for 40-year-old gay people,” one character cracks self-referentially, letting the audience know the actors are just as aware of how ridiculous, even inane, the whole undertaking is, but sallying forth nevertheless through a phalanx of puns and creaky one-liners. Beane dares you not to camp it up with him; you resist at your peril.

All of which makes Xanadu fun and completely frivolous. From the sassy black drag queens who are several of the Muse “sisters” to co-director and supporting player Andi Allen in cat-glasses and a Lucille Ball color-and-wave haircut circa Season 2 of Here’s Lucy, it’s a calculated send-up of Gen-X iconography told with enthusiastic silliness.

The jukebox score is a pastiche of disco-era radio hits like “Strange Magic” and “Evil Woman,” shoehorned together like the random shuffle on an iPod … if you like that kind of stuff — and it’s nearly impossible not to like it, considering how committed the cast is to the whole aesthetic. This is Velasco’s best stage work (he played Juan in Uptown Players’ Altar Boyz three years back), as he projects adorable stupidity and naïvete. (“Even my suicide notes are clichés!” he whines in a moment of despair.)

The rest of the cast is equally adept (it ain’t easy dancing on roller skates), and this is Level Grounds Arts’ most polished production since moving into the KD Studio Theatre. Gnarly, dude.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas