‘Xanadu’ is gloriously silly and fun
Gina Milo (“Clio/Kira”) and Chris Critelli (“Sonny”) star in "Xanadu" at Drury Lane Theatre
Drury Lane, Oak Brook, 10 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace
Through Oct. 28
For tickets - $35 - $45
For more info: 630/530-0111, www.drurylaneoakbrook.com
If you’re not giggling like a tween on nitrous five minutes in to Xanadu, you need to check your pulse and your attitude.
The Drury Lane Oak Brook’s latest offering is the silliest musical ever writ. This is a show wherein a key, climactic plot point revolves around a pair of magic leg warmers. If only the ancient Greeks had known the secret superpowers of cheesy ’80s apparel at the time of the Trojan War, the thing might have been wrapped up in a week instead of dragging on for nine years.
As for sight of venerable song ‘n dance man Sean Blake in a pair of see-through gold lame parachute pants? Dear reader, musical theater just doesn’t get any more unabashedly, gloriously pandering. And I mean that as a total kudo.
Directed by Rachel Rockwell, “Xanadu” is as ridiculous as her previous recent efforts (“Sweeney Todd,” “Ragtime”) were sublime. How could it be otherwise, what with numbers that feature a tribute to Devo and the likes of Medusa and Pan earnestly singing “Have You Ever Been Mellow” to a toga-and-glitter clad Zeus who appears to be channeling the Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz?
Xanadu is completely aware of its own gleeful cheesiness, and embraces it with a wink and a nudge toward the audience. Everyone is chewing on the scenery here (sometimes literally), as a cadre of demi-gods come to life to inspire street artist Sonny Malone (the goofily endearing Chris Critelli.)
The 1980-set story by Douglas-Carter Beane (book), Jeff Lynne and John Farrar (music and lyrics) opens in Venice Beach, Calif., as Sonny admires a massive chalk mural he’s crafted to represent a small pantheon of Greek immortals. But he turns sappily suicidal within a few lines of dialogue, unhappy with the way he’s drawn mural’s central figure. Faster than you can say supercallifragelisticexpealidocious, the denizens of the mural have magically cavorted down from the wall, intent on saving the struggling Sonny from his self-doubts. Their ringleader is the winsome Clio (Gina Milo, an effortlessly impressive comic actor who can sing as effectively as she generates chortles), who disguises her goddessness by donning roller skates, leg-warmers and an Australian accent.
The plot, such as it is, involves Clio and Sonny falling in love (but of course) whilst working to open a forum that would serve as an “apex of all arts,” aka a roller disco. The plot complications are rooted in the fact that as a muse, Clio is forbidden from falling in love with a mortal, creating art herself and revealing her true identity to the struggling Sonny. Naturally, she’s done all three by the end of the first act. And really, the plot is just one big goofy excuse to trot out a number of vintage, K-Tel worthy hits including Magic, Evil Woman, and, of course, the Olivia Newton-Johntastic title tune.
Rockwell’s cast is fully committed to the zaniness. As the jealous Muse of Tragedy, Christine Sherrill has a fine time embodying a vixen of evil intentions, abetted by her ditzy, dopey, Parker Stevenson-loving sidekick Calliope (Nancy Voights). The other supernaturals include Eurepe (Stephanie Binetti, muse of music and lyrics), Terpsicore (Blake, muse of dance), Thalia (Gary Carlson, flash-happy muse of comedy), and Erata (Tammy Mader, going for full va-va-va voom as the muse of erotica.) Then there’s Gene Weygandt, a daffily charismatic, a comic merger of velvety Sinatra-esque vocals and Gene Kelly-like grace in the part of a developer rich in money but poor in love.
As for Rockwell’s over-the-top choreography, it’s an over-the-top ode to Ode on a Grecian Urn.
And despite the dead-one mid-show descriptor that “this is like children’s theater for 40-year-old gay people,” this most antic of juke box extravaganzas is a hoot no matter your orientation. Long before Clio’s flying sparkle pony arrives on the scene, you’ll be grinning like an idiot.