Xanadu review: Rolling on the floor laughing

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By: Janna Fitzgerald, Editor-in-Chief

As far as ’80s glam rock musicals on roller skates go, Xanadu is the best I’ve seen.

The crazy musical comedy Xanadu opened at Illinois Wesleyan in the Jerome Mirza Theatre on Tuesday, April 11, and they will perform three more shows. The remaining shows are on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. The show is a based off of the 1980 cult classic by the same name. The movie itself is extremely campy and poorly written,  although the music is ’80s gold, including songs like “Strange Magic” and “Evil Woman.” The musical parodies the film,  obviously self-aware of its own ridiculousness, and the results are hilarious.  

Xanadu follows Sonny Malone, an artist dissatisfied with his life and his sidewalk chalk mural of the Greek Muses. The Muses themselves come out of the mural in Venice Beach in order to inspire this mortal. Clio, the leader of the Muses, decides to interact with Sonny in order to inspire him, using an Australian accent, leg warmers, roller skates and the name Kira as a disguise. Sonny, inspired by her presence, decides in combine all the arts and athletics into a spectacular feat of human achievement: a roller disco.

He contacts the real estate mogul Danny Maguire to rent the space to live his dream. Meanwhile Clio’s sisters Melpomene and Calliope are jealous that Clio is the leader of the Muses, despite the fact that Clio is the youngest. They also hear that Zeus promised the gift of “Xanadu” to Clio, although nobody knows exactly what that is. They decide to cause Clio’s banishment to the netherworld by cursing her into falling in love with Sonny, breaking one of Zeus’ cardinal rules. Shenanigans ensue.

This show was completely and utterly ridiculous, and given the circumstances, I think that’s the highest compliment I can give the cast and grew. The jokes had the audience rolling with laughter consistently. The show even poked fun at modern theater, which had theater students and professors guffawing. It’s exactly the kind of show students need to get their minds off of upcoming finals.

Jeffrey Keller was extremely lovable and hilarious as Sony Malone, despite his ditziness. He’s the human version of a puppy dog. Clio, played by Kara Ryan, was perky and sweet in a way that made the audience root for her. Jessica McGrew perfectly captured the spirit of a crotchety old woman as Melpomene, and she was equal parts evil and inappropriate. Calliope, played by Dana Clouser, embraced the role of evil minion in a hilarious way, with her constant mocking of Melpomene. Jace LeGarde as Danny Maguire showed significant growth from a man beat down by life to an enthusiastic business partner. Also, surprisingly, LeGarde can rock platform stiletto heels.

The stage setup and set were really interesting, for they performed the show like theater-in-the-round with some audience members on stage. This created a really interesting challenge for the actors, for they had to perform in a way that the audience could enjoy from every angle. They rose to the occasion. The set itself, designed by Maddi Wolf, was fairly minimalistic, but given all the color and craziness going on in the costumes and performances, it didn’t need to be much. Also all parts of the set, including the walls around the “roller rink,” got plenty of use.

The costumes, designed by Connor O. Speck, were colorful and zany. He somehow was able to carry the spirit of the ’80s over into his Greek costumes as well. The sheer number of costumes was almost overwhelming, but each costume had a hilarious quirk to it that brought the show even more to life.

The choreography, by Jean Kerr and Maggie Cornyn was the real star of the show. The Muses were constantly dancing, sometimes very skillfully and other times in a ridiculous manner. The entire cast was very talented on roller skates.

My highest compliments to anyone involved with music, for the show wouldn’t have been the same without it. Although the costumes provided the ’80s look, the music provided the ’80s feel. My only criticism of the show is that they had a lot of prop malfunctions. The cast played them off really well, almost to the point where the audience might think they were intended, but they need to make sure their microphones don’t break or headbands don’t fall off in the middle of the show.

Overall, the show was a glorious glitterball of hilarity. I enjoyed in far more than I thought I would, knowing the premise of the show beforehand. The performance, music and all other elements came together in a way that was very satisfying to watch.