Review: Arizona Theatre Company’s Xanadu


You Have To Believe We Are Magic

By Caitlin C. Miller

Arizona Theatre Company's Xanadu.  Photo by Mark Kitaoka and Tracy Martin.

Arizona Theatre Company’s Xanadu.
Photo by Mark Kitaoka and Tracy Martin.

When you enter the auditorium for the  Arizona Theatre Company/Village Theatre co-production of Xanadu , you are transported into the heyday of roller disco. A-ha and the Eurythmics play as you are seated, and the set is a bright pastel dream of plexiglass and cellophane. And as soon as Sonny Malone, the ever optimistic (though sometimes discouraged) artist at the heart of the show (played by the fantastic Dane Stokinger and later in the month by Kyle Sorrel), introduces himself, the typical night at the theater is turned on its head. As the Muses step out of their chalk mural, you are pulled into an era that lives like an ELO song stuck in the back of your head during rush hour traffic – an era of big hair and even bigger music, complete with magic leg warmers, mirror balls and dreams coming true.

Not only does the show boast a cast with incredible vocal and dance ability, but they had such fantastic comedic timing that there was not a moment where the crowd wasn’t either laughing, cheering or applauding. Xanadu isn’t afraid to poke fun at its source material, the initially unsuccessful 1980 film of the same name starring Olivia Newton John and Gene Kelly, in what would be his last film. It has all the charm and youthful hopefulness of the cult movie, while lovingly satirizing the late ’70s/early ’80s roller disco craze.

Xanadu is a glittering celebration of human creativity and the power of nostalgia; a lively musical comedy about wide-eyed artists and their (literal) muses skating down the boardwalk of Santa Monica with dreams as big as the ocean; about scheming sisters and rekindled hopes. Xanadu isn’t a play you can just sit through – it makes you jump to your feet, cast your own love spells and dance along to the magical music you didn’t even know you loved. So lace up your skates and roll your way to Herberger Theater, because after the 19th, Xanadu will be gone like a chalk mural in the Los Angeles rain.

For more information, visit www.arizonatheatre.org.

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