Check your brain in at the door folks … Xanadu The Musical has arrived in town. This stage version of the 1980 film starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly hit Broadway for just over a year in 2007-2008. It was even nominated for Best Musical at the Tony’s. Thank God In The Heights won that one! But this sure ain’t Broadway. However you market it, the Grand Xanadu Marquee in Melbourne is a circus big top on a vacant block under the Bolte Bridge. Not exactly classy.
There was only one thing good about Xanadu, the film, 31 years ago and that was Olivia Newton-John’s vocals. Coincidentally, this stage review mirrors that of the movie with one star awarded for Christie Whelan’s great vocals in the lead role of Clio/Kira and that’s about it.
Thankfully, the only way to go when you’re doing a stage version of a wildly popular, but critical disaster of a movie is to spoof it up. You’d think you couldn’t go wrong. How hard is it to pull off deliberate bad acting, right? Well, somehow the Xanadu cast made this one of the most forgettable nights at the theatre I’ve had in years.
The jokes fell so flat, the only people laughing were those who had a few wines under their belt. The acting was so average, I thought I was watching a very bad school musical, instead of a send-up of a very bad movie. The set was lame, the rollerskating okay and the venue so tacky I was waiting for the elephants to arrive.
A pity really, because Xanadu has at least three fabulous songs in Magic, Suddenly and Xanadu the title track. On stage, many of the songs were interrupted with dialogue part-way through, ruining the song in the process. There was so little set design to speak of, the blocking and choreography must have been done Shakepseare-style, almost on a bare stage.
I’d think carefully about paying the $86 ticket price. After I cringed more than I laughed at a ratio of 10 to 1 and looked at my watch five times in 90-minutes, I knew this was not going to be a memorable night at the theatre. I suspect after the dust has settled, this may be one of those shows the cast quietly erase from their CV in order to get work again in the future.
I know Xanadu is meant to be a spoof and just a bit of fun, but this production can’t even do a good spoof of a terrible 80s movie with great songs. Mamma Mia and Hairspray were a lot of fun. Sadly, Xanadu was not. The big top was less than half full. Time to start filling the house with comps.
There is bad theatre, good theatre and there is great theatre. Xanadu is atrocious theatre. If you must see it, at least make sure you hit the bar before the show. It will take some of the pain away.