All words: The Theatre Gay
Xanadu runs from May 8th to July 1st at the Signature Theatre. Tickets are available online, or at the box office.
Glitter, cut-off jeans, and boys in heels. No this isn’t Town on a Friday night; this is Xanadu! This summer, Shirlington is getting a dose of the (roller) disco fever at the Signature Theatre. Matthew Gardiner, Associate Artistic Director at Signature, directed and choreographed this 80s-inspired electric rock musical on roller skates. Some of you might remember this Olivia Newton John Cult Classic turned Jukebox Musical when it premiered on Broadway in 2007. And if you don’t, you should. This musical infuses all that we loved about the 80s without any of the terrible, conservative ideologies.
We open on Venice Beach, California where we are introduced to Sonny Malone (Charles Brady), a struggling chalk artist, who inadvertently brings to life the Muses of Ancient Greece. That’s right. We’re talking the girls on the side of the vase. You know, last seen in the Disney movie Hercules? Our heroine, Clio (Erin Weaver), the Muse of Histories, calls her sisters together to help inspire Sonny to create the ultimate piece of art: something relevant to culture, something eternal, something that combines all art forms: a Roller Derby! But the muses (like all Greeks) have very specific rules. First, they cannot create the art themselves, only inspire. Second, they cannot fall in love with a mortal (but really, who would want to anyway?). Third, they can never reveal their true identity as demi-goddesses. And if they ever break these rules, they are damned to eternity in the Netherworld (gasp!).
But rules are meant to be broken… right? Clio (disguised as Australian roller-skater Kira) helps Sonny remodel an abandoned warehouse into the raddest roller derby since the Colosseum. Although, some “Strange Magic” begins to work its way into the plot. Clio’s heart gets the better of her, and she ends up falling for Sonny, as expressed through previously mentioned 80s pop songs (but of course!). Against a back drop of beautifully gaudy set and costumes, Xanadu really pops, cracks, and backflips. Did I mention that there are roller skates? Cause there are a lot of them. And they’re fucking brilliant.
The campyness knows no bounds in Xanadu. What’s wonderful about Matthew Gardiner’s production, it takes the camp and runs with it. Not a single gag is missed, and there are at least a few cultural references for every generation. This would not have been possible, however, without a cast this talented. The ensemble is on-point not only with their dance moves, but with their comic timing, and they’re having a blast. The cast was running on high-octane joy from the first moment they set foot on stage. Sherri L. Edelen and Nova Y. Payton have explosive chemistry as the mischievous sisters Calliope and Melpomene. The four muse sisters, played by Mark Chandler, Jamie Eacker, Kellee Knighten Hough, and Nickolas Vaughan, flow seamlessly as a unit. May I just say to Mark and Nickolas, the boy muses: werk ladies, werk. There’s not a single weak link in this cast; each actor has their own unique delivery which works to bring this spectacle to life. As Calliope says “This is like children’s theatre for gay men!”
And please, allow me put on my $150,000 Theatre Major hat for a moment: what I love about this production is that amidst all this silliness and costume changes, Gardiner has brought us a story about art, and its power to transform. Creation is the ultimate gift that we have as humans. Take advantage of it! Xanadu is intoxicatingly funny, goofy as legwarmers, and the music is catchy as hell. Seriously, this weekend, skip U Street, slap on your sweat-bands, take a healthy dose of glitter and skate on down to Signature theatre. Cause where better to spend a Saturday night, than at Xanadu?