Wednesday, July 11, 2007
The dictionary defines xanadu as, "a place of great beauty, luxury and contentment." Xanadu, currently playing at the Helen Hayes and based upon the famously horrible 1980 movie musical starring Olivia Newton-John, is none of these things. It is far too garish to be beautiful, too threadbare to be luxurious, and too loud to give anyone a feeling of contentment. Still, you're bound to have a damn good time at this bright, boisterous and mercifully short confection, which seems to have overcome the odds and is quickly becoming the surprise hit of the summer. (The crowd at the stage door was already three rows deep by the time I made it out of the theatre.) While half of the piece's success is due to its off the charts kitsch factor--the legwarmers and rollerblades, the memorably cringeworthy ELO score, the tacky scenery (by David Gallo) just screaming to be chewed--one would be remiss not to credit the extremely talented and incredibly hardworking cast. It's no shock that Mary Testa and Jackie Hoffman are delicious as evil muses, or that Cheyenne Jackson plays a lovable dope par excellence. The pleasant surprise here comes courtesy of Kerry Butler as the irresistable muse Clio, who comes to earth to inspire Jackson's starving artist. Her vocal features--both her rollicking belt and her send-up of Newton-John's crystalline soprano--are note perfect and her flourishes of humor are simply uproarious. Could she be Broadway's next bonafide musical comedy star? I think so.