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Campy Xanadu a true pleasure
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Campy Xanadu a true pleasure

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Xanadu
January 19-24
Paramount Theatre


The musical Xanadu roller-skated its way into the Paramount Theatre this week, blowing kisses the entire way. Complete with leg warmers, tightly fit cutoff jeans and headbands, the musical opened January 19 and was, in a word, fun! Based on the 1980s flop film, this surprise hit of Broadway's 2008 season is what the film should have been - a big chocolate bon bon. The musical keeps the music, which was the strongest part of the cult-classic movie. It thumbs its nose at what's left of the flimsy film, and delivers a big, campy wink to the audience. In short, the musical bitch-slaps the movie and struts off.

The story takes place in 1980s Los Angeles - Venice Beach, to be exact. Sonny Malone (Max Von Essen) is a young, talented artist waiting for his inspirational muse to appear. She does in the form of Kira (Elizabeth Stanley), the lead of the immortal nine muses of Greek mythology. She and her sisters - two are played by men for the musical (Jesse Nager and Kevin Duda) - have come to life to help out the poor artist. The conflict comes when two jealous sisters, Melpomene and Calliope (Natasha Yvette Williams and Annie Golden), cast a spell and try to split up the young lovers before they can reach their dream of Xanadu.

Elizabeth Stanley is wonderful as muse Kira. She's pretty, acts well, she has a very good singing voice. Most of all, she knows how to camp it up. Her eyes are extremely expressive as she skates across the stage, appearing doe-eyed at her lover or shooting daggers at one of her sisters, all the while giving the audience a giant smile. Her Australian accent is over-the-top as it purposely disappears and reappears so often it seems to be random. Max Von Essen as artist Sonny Malone is the perfect "straight man" to Stanley's comic girl. His voice is strong and he sings the pop hits well, but his character seems stuck on one note throughout.

The comedy in this musical comes from four of the muses, the two jealous ones and the two played by men. Natasha Yvette Williams (Melpomene, the muse of tragedy) and Annie Golden (Calliope, the muse of epics) plot their way with such camp styling that the audience expects to see tents. Their version of "Evil Woman" will stay in your head all night, and then some. They work together like Frick 'n' Frack and you can tell they have fun while doing it. Jesse Nager plays Terpsichore, the muse of dance, and he does it with his head popping and an over-the-head snap of the fingers. His partner in hijinks is Thalia, the muse of comedy (Kevin Duda). Just watching the way these four move and interact on the stage will keep a smile on your face, if there isn't one there already.

Larry Marshall plays Zeus and a club owner, Danny Maguire. His voice is smooth, with a subtle baritone quality that mixes well in the duets. The other cast members add their support without distraction. They weave in and out of the background, adding to the plotline and blending harmonies, and all do a great job as a supporting cast.

Comparing the movie and the musical is like comparing Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, but in reverse. Pygmalion and its offspring shared a plot line, but My Fair Lady added music, taking it to the next level. Xanadu on stage shares the music with its celluloid predecessor, but rewrites the plot, making it much more enjoyable.

Xanadu opened on Broadway on May 23, 2007, and ran for over a year and a half. Nominated for four Tony Awards (including Best Musical), the show originally stared Kerry Butler and Cheyenne Jackson. It ran for over 500 performances.

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