Monday, June 25, 2012

"Xanadu" in West Boca Raton


A Lively “Xanadu” at the West End of Glades Road
By Skip Sheffield

“Xanadu” was a movie so bad it inspired the creation of the Golden Raspberry Awards, or “Razzies” in 1981.
The story, set in Venice Beach, California in 1980, was ludicrous. The stars, Olivia Newton-John and Michael Beck, were unconvincing and lacked chemistry.
 There were two things in the film’s favor: a soundtrack by Electric Light Orchestra’s Jeff Lynne and a final film appearance by the great Gene Kelly as failed musician-turned construction magnate Danny Maguire.
So it was with the lowest of expectations I braved the rain to drive all the way to the end of Glades Road to see Blow Burn Theatre’s production of the musical “Xanadu,” continuing through July 1 at West Boca Raton High School.
By golly, surprise! “Xanadu” was a campy, hilarious delight, much more enjoyable than the movie that inspired it.
Playwright Douglas Carter Beane wisely jettisoned most of the story and re-wrote it with a wink and a nod to Hollywood, gay humor, and musical theater conventions.
The main thing Beane kept was the initial premise of a Greek goddess, Clio, who springs to life out of a chalk mural in Venice Beach and roller skates into the life of aspiring artist Sonny Malone. Sonny is a young guy who dreams of opening a roller disco nightclub in the never-opened, long-shuttered theater called Xanadu.
Clio, who is also called Kira, is played by a powerhouse, outsized talent named Lindsey Forgery. For her impersonation of Olivia Newton-John, Lindsey wears pink legwarmers, a platinum blond wig and affects an exaggerated Australian accent.
Rick Pena has a fine tenor voice and naïve appeal as Sonny, a mortal who falls into forbidden love with immortal goddess Clio/Kira. The role of Danny Maguire (and a couple others) is played by versatile Larry Buzzeo.
Clio/Kira has a Greek chorus of eight sister muses, two of them played by guys in tutus. Conor Walton and Jerel Brown make a good sight gag, and Walton is one heck of a good tap-dancer.
Two of the muses are wicked and want to see Clio/Kira banished from Mount Olympus. Renata Eastlick is outstandingly wicked as malevolent Melpomene, getting her nasty on with “Strange Magic.”
Director/Choreographer Patrick Fitzwater has wisely staged the show in a single 90-minute act, which gives one no time to ponder the absurdities of the show.
The vocal harmonies are strong and there is a spritely onstage four-piece band to propel ELO’s great songs, augmented by additional numbers by John Farrar.
Have you never been mellow? This show brings new meaning to that once-sappy song.
Shows are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 students, $30 seniors and $35 adults. Call 866-811-4111.

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