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Xanadu At Drury Lane: Magic!

Back in August of 1980 I was eleven years old and really excited to see a new movie starring Olivia Newton John, “Xanadu”. I had enjoyed her music for a long time but after seeing her in “Grease”, I was a Superfan.

Perhaps my Superfan status is the reason why, when most of the general public thought that “Xanadu” was one of the worst movies ever*, I (and my sister, too) fell head over heels in love with it. I loved the plot, the Greek mythology elements, the music, the wardrobe (even the legwarmers), all of it. I mean, come ON. Look at this and tell me that you aren’t intrigued:

One of the women’s magazines my mom had in the house featured a piece on Olivia’s “one versatile haircut” that allowed so many different looks in the movie. I cut the pictures out of the magazine and decorated the front of a folder with them, which I used at school a couple of weeks later. I received the record album for my birthday that November, and in fact still have it!

Years went by, and in 2007 we heard that there would be a Broadway musical based on the film. We saw the cast perform on Thanksgiving Day as a part of the Macy’s parade, and that only increased our need to see the play.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be and we missed the musical both while it was in New York and when the national tour brought it to Chicago.

Fortunately, Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace decided to produce the musical themselves, and I was invited to check it out a few days ago.

In a word? Ilovedit.

(It is SO one word if you squish it all together like that.)

I knew I would love it. The great thing was, it seemed like everyone who was in the audience loved it as well. Anyone who may not have known that it was going to be a hilarious evening was prepared by reading the Playbill, which offered this, excerpted from the “Director’s Notes” (without a doubt the best Director’s Notes I’ve ever read!):

“Here, you can openly express your devotion for one of the most controversial films of all time…Xanadu. Here, you can enjoy the Xanadu free from the ridicule of the outside world. You no longer have to pretend that you think ELO songs are cheesy and that you don’t wish you had Olivia Newton John’s beaded headpiece from the finale sequence. You are in a safe place. On the flipside, if Xanadu didn’t make your Top Ten Greatest Films of All Time or if you couldn’t watch it without wondering if Gene Kelly was thinking, ‘I can’t believe this is my last movie,’ you can feel free to openly mock the legwarmers, Aqua Net and the absurdly over-choreographed dance numbers that seem to occur for no particular reason. You, too, are in a safe place.”

Also discovered by reading the Playbill, the stars of the show are Gina Milo (Kira) and Chris Critelli (Sonny), as well as Gene Weygandt (Danny/Zeus), who I was thrilled to see. The last time (actually, the last THREE TIMES) I enjoyed Weygandt’s work was in the Chicago production of “Wicked”, in which he played the Wizard. “Xanadu” has a small cast, only eleven actors, and everybody except the two leads handles two or more roles.

For the uninitiated, here’s a description of the musical, from the Drury Lane press release:

Xanadu is based on the Universal Pictures cult classic movie of the same title, which starred Olivia Newton John and Gene Kelly. Xanadu follows the journey of a magical and beautiful Greek muse, Kira, who descends from the heavens of Mt. Olympus to Venice Beach, California in 1980 on a quest to inspire a struggling artist, Sonny, to achieve the greatest artistic creation of all time, a roller disco. When Kira falls into forbidden love with the mortal Sonny, her jealous sisters take advantage of the situation and chaos abounds.”

The play is actually a send-up of the movie, and it’s goofy but endearing and totally hysterical from start to finish. Being a fan of the movie, I appreciated some of the little details that were originally a part of the movie and then completely exaggerated for the stage production, to get the laugh. That said, and just like it says in the “Director’s Notes”, it is completely unnecessary to have seen the movie before enjoying this musical.

Did I mention that the two leads in the musical spend lots of time on roller skates?

(L to R) Gina Milo (“Clio/Kira”) and Chris Critelli (“Sonny”) star in XANADU at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, through October 28, 2012. For reservations, call the Drury Lane Theatre box office at 630.530.0111, call TicketMaster at 800.745.3000 or visit www.drurylaneoakbrook.com. Photo credit: Brett Beiner

By the way, the “jealous sisters” are actually a plot addition for the musical. The sisters, Melpomene (played by Christine Sherrill) and Calliope (played by Nancy Voights) were a hilarious addition, plotting to win Zeus’ favor from Kira.

(L to R) Christine Sherrill, Gene Weygandt, and Nancy Voigts star in XANADU at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, through October 28, 2012. For reservations, call the Drury Lane Theatre box office at 630.530.0111, call TicketMaster at 800.745.3000 or visit www.drurylaneoakbrook.com. Photo credit: Brett Beiner

“Xanadu” had a two-hour running time (approximately), including the 15-minute intermission. The time flew by, what with all of the laughter and disco balls and leg warmers and roller skates and unicorns. At the end, everyone in the audience was up and dancing, and, I’m guessing (if they were anything like me), wishing it wasn’t over.

Perks of Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace that apply to any play being produced there: free parking, comfortable seats, gorgeous theater space, and the ability to purchase a lunch or dinner package with show tickets, too. It’s located in Oakbrook Terrace, which is a pretty central location no matter where you live in Chicagoland: generally almost anybody in the Chicago area can get to Oakbrook Terrace in forty minutes or less.

“Xanadu” is playing at Drury Lane through October 28 and has shows on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. ($35), Thursdays at 1:30 p.m. ($35) and 8:00 p.m. ($40), Fridays at 8:30 p.m. ($45), Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. ($45) and 8:30 p.m. ($45), and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. ($45) and 6:00 p.m. ($40) Lunch and Dinner packages range from $49.75 to $68 depending on the day of the week.

Group and Senior Citizen rates are available. For reservations, call the box office at 630-530-0111 or visit the website.

I would definitely go see this musical again. And again. And most likely again: it was THAT funny. Now…who wants to go with me?

*In fact, I screamed in delight when I found out that “Xanadu” and another movie we loved that also came out in 1980, the Village People’s “Can’t Stop The Music”, were responsible for instigating the development of the Golden Raspberry Awards (commonly known as “The Razzies”)! By the way, “Can’t Stop The Music” won the first official Razzie for Worst Picture.

Disclosure: Drury Lane at Oakbrook provided me with two complimentary tickets to check out the show without any request or assumption that I would write about it. All words and opinions are mine; pictures are courtesy of the theater.

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  • Grandma W September 16, 2012, 7:47 pm

    I am so jealous, I LOVE all musicals. They’re much better than a lot of the movies and plays that are produced now a days. I sometimes feel that is why this world is going to Hell with all the violance that you see.

    Grandma W.