Remember the 1980 film “Xanadu?” The one starring Olivia Newton-John which now has a cultish following? Well, actually, it doesn’t matter if you remember it or not, since the musical parody bearing the same name at American Theater Company (deftly directed by Lili-Anne Brown) is a wholly–and independently–enjoyable spin around the rink.
If you go
Runs through July 17, 2016
American Theater Company
1909 W. Byron Street, Chicago
The premise is simple, sort of: The year is 1980. Greek Muses step out of a Venice Beach, California, mural to inspire an artist plagued with self-doubt. His dream–obviously–is to create a haven for the arts (… and roller skating). As long as the Muses follow the rules of never revealing their Muse status, never physically creating art themselves and never (ever) falling in love, all will be shinier than a disco ball. What could possibly go wrong
Intrigued? Here are nine reasons why this show should be on your clutch list for summer:
The cast is phenomenal. The Greek Muses, led by Clio (played by the jaw-droppingly good Landree Fleming), bring one hundred percent commitment to this level of physical comedy. There’s backwards rollerskating, exceptional harmonizing and even an impressive tap dance interlude.
Your tweens and teens will laugh their faces off. Sure, they won’t understand half of the references (and uh, what the heck’s a pay phone?), but they’ll have a blast. (Besides, few things are funnier than giggling at our parents’ youthful culture, right?)
This show has been on stages huge and small, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better venue than ATC’s intimate space (which lends itself to becoming a roller rink with startling ease).
Again, it’s on roller skates. It’s on ROLLER SKATES.
There are simply no throwaway lines. This cast has perfected the art of the witty aside and the split-second reaction, and you can tell that they’re having an incredible time making each other look really, really good.
Usually, in comedies this raucous, there’s a noticeable absence of heart or sentiment. Not so here. A particularly effective subplot involving a hardened businessman with the soul of an artist (the wonderful Aaron Holland) and a mysterious past connection to Clio adds some welcomed depth to a play about, well, Venice Beach in 1980.
The music is glorious. A large portion of the movie’s soundtrack (and thusly the play’s score) was penned by ELO. Yep, the Electric Light Orchestra. Three of the play’s nine Greek Muses are actually the onstage band. (Have you bought your tickets yet?)
A dance number mashup where 1945 meets 1980 will make you wish for your own neon legwarmers.
And finally, when a progressive and thought-provoking theater company decides to dedicate the last show of their 31st season to the memory of their late Artistic Director (Xanadu was one of P.J. Paparelli’s favorite guilty pleasures), then you know it’ll be a worthwhile romp.
Nostalgia never looked–or sounded–quite so rad.