So last night Emily and I saw Xanadu on Broadway. OMG It was amazing and just so much fun! For those who don’t know, or have blacked the experience out all together, Xanadu is based on the 1980 movie staring Olivia Newton John, Fred Astaire and featuring the music of ELO. The movie is about a Greek muse named Kira who comes to life from a mural. She meets Sonny Malone, who is a struggling artist. She becomes his muse. Sonny gets the idea to basically open up a roller disco and finds the place he wants to build it, an old theater/building called Xanadu. As it turns out, the builder (Fred Astaire) was inspired by Kira decades ago. So the two form a partnership and end up opening the roller disco Xanadu.
The show keeps the same basic story, but adds Kira’s sister muses to the story as other characters, as well her enemies. Two of the sisters set out to sabotage her out of jealousy and provide the villains for the show. Equally hilarious is the fact that two of the sister muses are actually played by men, who without the show seriously wouldn’t be half as funny as it is. Each actor also plays double parts in the show, which is why they have some male muses. You’ll just have to see it, I don’t want to spoil it.
Do you need to see the movie to enjoy the show? No. Honestly if you see the movie you probably won’t WANT to see the show, because the movie is just horrendous. However if you have seen the movie, it actually does make you appreciate the show a little more. For example the jokes about the movie in the show you’ll get, and it is interesting to see how they incorporate some of the songs and scenes from the movie into the show, such as the introductory number where they come alive from the mural. The one plus upon seeing the movie comes with the introduction of the Fred Astaire character. I felt in the show his introduction and his past with Kira (the boogie woogie tap dancing number) wasn’t clear. It was explained well after the scene to the audience, but if you hadn’t seen the movie it just comes out of no where and it’s kinda like huh?
The songs from the movie are there, as well as some extra ELO songs (such as Evil Woman). They are incorporated into the show amazingly well. Musically it’s great show and if you know the songs you’ll want to sing along. Kerri Butler, who plays Kira (Olivia’s character) is absolutely amazing. There are several instances where you literally laugh out loud as she’s singing because she’s purposefully overdoing Olivia’s wispy voice and huffs. The way they add the cheesy 80s “video effects” to some of the numbers is hilarious as well. Wind machine anyone?
One thing that struck me and many people was the size of the theater. The show is playing at the Helen Hayes theater, which is a very small theater for a show like this. This is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because no matter what seat you get, your pretty much guaranteed a good one. It’s a curse because as this show probably becomes more popular, tickets may become more difficult to get because of the theater size.
There is actually seating on stage believe it or not. The stage is set up like a Greek amphitheater and for an additional fee you can sit on the stage. This has it’s pluses and minuses. You are a whole lot closer to the actors, and the actors at times sit with you and even interact with you. However at the same time you’ll see a lot of their backs as they are performing.
The show is not serious like other broadway shows, essentially a spoof Broadway itself and of the 80s. It is filled with references and jokes throughout poking fun at the decade. This is probably what makes it just so enjoyable and fun to watch. However at the same time, some of the jokes and references might go over people’s heads. For example if you don’t know what “Clash of the Titans” is, then the best joke of the show will be lost on you.
If you are in New York anytime soon, be sure to see this show. You’ll love it. If you don’t, something is wrong with you!