Saturday, May 26, 2007


Adapted from the horrendously inept, cheesey-80's-ugly movie that nailed the coffin shut on the roller disco movie craze, Xanadu may be the gayest, campiest musical to ever open on Broadway. It's relentlessly spoofy fluff, "children's theatre for forty year old gay people" as one character says succinctly in the Douglas Carter Beane-authored book. The story is dopey: some muses spring from a chalk drawing to inspire our hero to realize his dream....of opening a fabulous rollerskate nightclub with tunes by ELO. But I have to say that the Broadway musical does what it sets out to do: it takes itself seriously not at all, a 90 minute party musical that you laugh out loud at with your friends before heading out for drinks. You teehee at the 80's references as you did at The Wedding Singer, you chuckle everytime leading lady Kerry Butler does a dead-on spoof of Olivia Newton John's breathy singing style, you simply give in to the disarming charm of seeing a Broadway musical that dares, absurdly, not to pretend to be anything more than ridiculous disposable camp. Theatregoers who can never remove their State Of The Musical Theatre hats are forewarned: you are sure to leave grumpy. I saw a very early preview - the finale needs to be bigger, Tony Roberts' first number brings the show to a dead halt (Roberts seems to have been asked to play it straight, but he sometimes uncomfortably seems to be the only ensemble member not in on a joke) and the choreography could capitalize more often on roller boogie nostalgia. Still, the mostly gay audience I saw it with was beside themselves with glee and all but swarmed the stage door afterward. Impossibly, ludicrously, this could be Broadway's surprise hit of the year.

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