Let it never be said there's not a lot happening in Xanadu - or Venice Beach, for that matter. How does one describe a musical that layers the music of Olivia Newton-John and ELO atop a story that contains everything from Greek gods on roller skates to torch songs sung by grumpy real estate developers?This can mean only one thing: The summer repertory season has kicked off again at the Lake Dillon Theatre Company. Leading this opening weekend is "Xanadu," a breathless exercise in campy jokes, wafer-thin plots, recycled pop tunes and references to all of the above. "Xanadu" revels in its own schlockiness, and once any claims to being grand musical theater are set aside, the cast is free to roller-skate its way through a fun evening of song and dance.Some may recall the 1980 film of the same name that starred Olivia Newton-John. This musical version of the tale remembers it too, even to the point of having the lead female take on a very fake Australian accent in homage to Ms. Newton-John. As Clio, Kara Dombrowski is cute as a button and fresh as a daisy (I assert that use of clich is acceptable here) - and hats off to any actress who can sing and dance her way through an entire show on Dillon's tiny stage while wearing roller skates and fuzzy leg warmers. It may be Venice Beach in 1980, but Clio is a muse, a Greek demi-god who pops out of a chalk mural being done by wanna-be artist Sonny Malone (Frank Sansone) and aims to be his inspiration.Muses, Greek mythology tells us, come in a group of nine, daughters of Zeus who represent the various art forms. In "Xanadu," we have but seven, and two of them are men (what they hey, right?). While technically the muse of history, Clio - who goes by Kira on Earth - appears to work outside her specialty as she encourages Sonny to keep up his art and transform a rundown theater in L.A. into a roller disco. Makes sense, right? All he needs is the building's owner, Danny Maguire, to give him the place for free. Played by Dillon artistic director Chris Alleman, Maguire, it turns out, was also smitten by Clio some years back, and she convinces him to give Sonny a shot. Meanwhile, two of Clio's sisters conspire to knock her off her pedestal as head muse by putting a spell on her to fall in love with Sonny (apparently a big no-no for muses).This pair is played wonderfully by Priscilla Fernandez and Britte Steele. As Calliope (muse of epic poetry, BTW), Fernandez threatens to steal every scene she's in as she triangulates goofy, sexy and just plain weird with an endless series of facial contortions and bizarre voices. She's like the batty spinster someone let out of the closet at Thanksgiving - prone to effusive malapropisms and epic grandstanding as she plays accomplice to the conniving and vaguely unpleasant Melpomene (Steele).Rounding out the seven sisters are Daniel Drewes as Thalia, Selah Grace as Euterpe, Ashley Alana Kenney as Erato and Tyrell Rae as Terpsichore. The muses also play other characters, and one can only imagine what backstage looks like as they fly into and out of one outrageous costume after another - all brilliantly designed by Nicole Harrison.It's a blast watching the muses and wondering what they'll play next. It's Rae who gets the best comic line of the show when he exits after a short stint as Hermes. No spoilers here, though ...For me, it was worth the price of admission to see Alleman play Zeus. In his flowing robes (or is that a cut-up bath towel?) and booming voice, Alleman has a great time with the part. Even more of a stitch is when his harsh sentence for Clio's transgressions is countered by having that Newton-John chestnut "Have You Never Been Mellow?" sung to him by Clio and the denizens of Mt. Olympus. And guess what? It works! Love conquers all, the disco ball spins above and Clio and Sonny roller-skate off into the sunset.Last summer, Dillon's somewhat sleeper hit "Altar Boyz" played in the latter part of the season at Keystone's Warren Station. As tight a bit of musical theater as has ever been seen in Summit County, it was directed by Denver's Nick Sugar, who returns to helm "Xanadu." Sugar also serves as choreographer, and the result is a sharp piece of work with many moving parts expertly spun together. "Xanadu" is also family-friendly, and it'd be a great show to introduce youngsters to the joy of the musical.Beginning July 5 in repertory at the LDTC may be the perfect antithesis to the feather-light "Xanadu" - the dark musical "Kiss of the Spiderwoman."
Xanadu: Where gods and roller disco meet
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